In a strange and ironic twist, in an article published in the journal Tobacco Control and a blog commentary on the article, a set of anti-smoking researchers are attacking the cigarette industry for complying with the law.
The article and commentary criticize tobacco companies for changing their labeling of "light" and "ultra-light" cigarette brands by removing these terms and instead, giving the brands different colors to differentiate them.
The results of the study were as follows: "Manufacturers substituted “Gold” for “Light” and “Silver” for “Ultra-light” in the names of Marlboro sub-brands, and “Blue”,
“Gold”, and “Silver” for banned descriptors in sub-brand names."
The study concludes that the tobacco companies circumvented the law and argues that these brands should be labeled by the FDA as "adulterated" and pulled from the market.
The Rest of the Story
The truth is that Bill Godshall and I predicted, years ago, that the anti-smoking groups' were full of baloney in promising that the FDA legislation would protect children and adults. Bill and I predicted that exactly
this scenario would unfold: the cigarette flavoring ban would have no
effect because no cigarettes were actually affected by the ban (menthol
cigarettes are exempt) and the "lights" ban would have no effect
because cigarette companies would start using coloring to convey the
differences between "lights" and other brands.
Instead of whining about the tobacco companies evading the FDA tobacco
law by using colors to denote the brands formerly known as "lights" or
"milds," the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and the other major anti-smoking groups should be apologizing to its
constituents and to the public for knowingly crafting legislation that
would not accomplish its declared purpose.
The Campaign for
Tobacco-Free Kids, along with the American Heart Association, American
Lung Association, and American Cancer Society pulled one over on
the American people by declaring that the legislation that the Campaign
crafted in negotiations with Philip Morris would put an end to
descriptors relating to "light" or "mild" cigarettes.
These groups agreed to and supported legislation would specifically did not
remove these brands from the market. Instead, the legislation simply
mandated that these descriptor terms not be used after June 21, 2010.
the tobacco companies are no longer using these descriptor terms, they
are in compliance with the federal law. They cannot possibly be found in
violation of the law for using alternative names for their products
when the law specifically allowed those products to remain on the
If it was the anti-smoking groups' intention to remove
these products from the market, then they should have made sure that the
legislation removed these products from the market. But given that they
did not do that, these groups cannot stand up today and pretend that
the problem is the tobacco companies circumventing the law. The problem
is the law itself, and the fact that it expressly permits the companies
to rename and repackage the products formerly known as "lights" or
"milds." Thus, these anti-smoking groups have no one to blame but
It is not that the tobacco companies are evading the
law; it is that the law is so weak that it allowed these products to
remain on the market, as long as they simply changed their names to
terms that do not directly convey the same meaning.
for Tobacco-Free Kids argued that the tobacco companies and retailers not
be allowed to tell consumers that the renamed products are the same as
the former products. But this would have been an unconstitutional restriction of free
speech. Unless the renamed product is banned, or the descriptor used is
in violation of the law because it directly infers that the cigarette
is safer, then I'm afraid that the companies are in compliance with the
law and the anti-smoking groups are going to have to respect that.
see, the problem is that the anti-smoking groups were willing to talk
the talk, but not willing to walk the walk. They wanted to pass
legislation in order to say that they had done something. They wanted to
be able to tell their constituents that they accomplished something.
You see, that's good for donations.
But when it really came down
to it, these groups weren't willing to actually put any meat in the
legislation. That's why they merely banned the descriptors, rather than
banning the products. That's why they banned the flavorings that are
never used, rather than the menthol which is used by millions. That's
why they gave the FDA authority to lower the nicotine in cigarettes, but
not remove it. That's why they gave the FDA authority to regulate
tobacco sales to minors, but not to increase the legal age of purchase
or outlaw the sale of tobacco in any particular type of retail
establishment. And that's why they are pushing the FDA to outlaw
electronic cigarettes and dissolvable tobacco products, but not touch
the real ones.
I'm sorry, but the words "gold," "silver,"
"orange," "red," "green" and other colors do not imply levels of harm.
In fact, there are existing cigarettes on the market with the names
"gold" or "silver" and these products are not accused of implying
different levels of health risk. The only reason why these color names
imply different risk level is that people know they are the replacement
names for the former "light" or "mild" cigarettes.
for Tobacco-Free Kids, and the FDA, cannot simply rewrite the law
because it was crafted improperly. They have to live within the statute,
and within the constitution. And unfortunately, the anti-smoking groups
screwed up (albeit intentionally). In other words, the tobacco
companies are not evading the law. They are following the law.
see, no matter what term a tobacco company uses to rename its product,
it is going to be known that the name is the new name for whatever the
product's old name was. No matter how bland and non-descriptive the new
name is, it is still going to infer the same attributes as the old name.
if it had been the intent of Congress to eliminate this problem,
Congress would have chosen to simply mandate the removal of these
"light" products from the market. But Congress did not do that.
rest of the story is that the anti-smoking groups are whining loudly
because they need to: they need to cover up their own indiscretion --
negotiating and supporting a bill with no teeth, while misleading the
public about the strength of the bill and its effects. In other words,
unless the anti-smoking groups shift the blame over to the tobacco
companies, then the fact that these groups lied to the American people
is going to become clear.