PAHO TODAY          The Newsletter of the Pan American Health Organization   -    August 2006


Tobacco: "Deadly in Any Disguise"

This year's World No Tobacco Day campaign focused on the dangers of tobacco products that are marketed in a way that misleads consumers into believing they are less harmful than well-established products such as cigarettes.

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) used this year's campaign, titled "Deadly in Any Form or Disguise," to inform consumers and policymakers about tobacco industry strategies to market "light," "mild," and "low-tar" cigarettes as being less harmful than regular cigarettes.

"Tobacco companies have for decades used these concepts to reassure smokers who are concerned about health and to get them to switch to these products rather than quit smoking," says Heather Selin, PAHO's top expert on tobacco control. "Unfortunately, it works. We know from industry documents and surveys that smokers think light cigarettes are safer than other cigarettes, and that many smokers who would otherwise have tried to quit switched to light cigarettes instead-just as the industry planned."

What many smokers don't realize, says Selin, is that these products deliver the same amounts of cancer-causing substances to the smoker as regular cigarettes, despite labeling information that suggests otherwise.

"The nicotine, tar and carbon monoxide levels printed on packages are based on a flawed testing system that uses a machine that smokes all cigarettes the same way," says Selin. "In practice, smokers smoke light cigarettes differently from regular ones, taking more puffs, inhaling more deeply, and taking in as much or more tar and nicotine."

PAHO recommends eliminating the testing system and prohibiting misleading terminology on packaging and in advertising, as called for in the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). PAHO also calls for including all tobacco products, not just cigarettes, in legislation aimed at reducing tobacco use.

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