Guidance Allowing 'FTC Method' Claims for Cigarettes Rescinded

Effective Nov. 26, 2008, the Federal Trade Commission has rescinded its 1966 guidance that allowed cigarette manufacturers to state their tar and nicotine yields, having been calculated in tests using the Cambridge Filter Method, also called "the FTC Method," without violating the FTC Act. The decision to rescind it was made on the basis of a better understanding of the tendency of smokers of lower-rated cigarettes "to take bigger, deeper, or more frequent puffs, or to otherwise alter their smoking behavior in order to obtain the dosage of nicotine they need," the agency's notice stated.

Back in 1966, the goal of cigarette testing under the Cambridge Filter Method was intended to produce uniform, standardized data about the tar and nicotine yields of mainstream cigarette smoke, not to replicate actual human smoking. The FTC thought the method that would allow comparisons among cigarettes, and at the time, most public health officials believed reducing the amount of tar in a cigarette could reduce a smoker's risk of lung cancer.

"Despite dramatic decreases in machine-measured tar and nicotine yields since then, the Commission has been concerned for some time that the current test method may be misleading to individual consumers who rely on the ratings it produces as indicators of the amount of tar and nicotine they actually will get from their cigarettes, or who use this information as a basis for comparison when choosing which cigarettes they smoke. In fact, the current yields tend to be relatively poor predictors of tar and nicotine exposure. This is primarily due to smoker compensation -- i.e., the tendency of smokers of lower-rated cigarettes to take bigger, deeper, or more frequent puffs, or to otherwise alter their smoking behavior in order to obtain the dosage of nicotine they need," the agency said. "Concerns about the machine-based Cambridge Filter Method became a substantially greater issue in the 1990s because of changes in modern cigarette design and due to a better understanding of the nature and effects of compensatory smoking behavior. Today, the consensus of the federal health agencies and the scientific community is that machine-based measurements of tar and nicotine yields using the Cambridge Filter Method 'do not offer smokers meaningful information on the amount of tar and nicotine they will receive from a cigarette, or on the relative amounts of tar and nicotine exposure they are likely to receive from smoking different brands of cigarettes.' "

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