The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act bans use of "light," "low," or "mild" or "similar descriptors" in tobacco product labeling or advertising as of June 22, 2010.

FDA Moving on Tobacco Marketing Claims

The agency asked Tuesday for comments about packaging that uses adjectives such as "silver" or "smooth," pastel or white colors, using the letter L, and displaying terms such as "natural" and "no additives."

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration asked Tuesday for comments and information that could inform potential guidelines about tobacco marketing claims that are similar to the soon-to-be-prohibited terms "light," "mild," and "low." The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, signed into law June 22, 2009, gave FDA authority to regulate tobacco marketing and added section 911(b) to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act banning the manufacture of any tobacco product using one of those terms "or similar descriptors" in its labeling or advertising as of June 22, 2010.

Comments are sought by Feb. 18 and can be submitted via (Docket No. FDA-2010-N-0020). Kathleen K. Quinn of the FDA Center for Tobacco Products, 9200 Corporate Blvd., Rockville, MD 20850-3229, 240-276-1717, is the contact for additional information.

The notice says tobacco products are responsible for more than 440,000 deaths annually and cites a CDC report indicating 70 percent of the 46 million adults who smoke in the United States want to quit. "Since the introduction to the American market in the 1960s of cigarettes marketed as 'light,' 'low,' or 'mild,' millions of smokers have turned to these products in the false belief that they pose fewer health hazards and may facilitate quitting," it says. "While scientific evidence has demonstrated that light cigarettes do not reduce the health risks associated with smoking, sales of light cigarettes have continued to climb, accounting for 92.7 percent of cigarettes sold in the United States in 2006. Curbing the significant adverse consequences of tobacco use is one of the most important public health goals of our time. One step toward the realization of that goal is to prevent misleading labeling claims and to regulate 'modified risk' tobacco products. We are requesting comments that will inform the agency's development of guidance on the meaning of the term 'similar descriptors.'

A copy of the Tobacco Control Act is available at

Altria Group Inc., Richmond, Va.-based parent of the largest U.S. tobacco company, Philip Morris USA, supported FDA regulation of tobacco products and states clearly on its Web site that no cigarette currently marketed is considered by public health advocates to offer "reduced risk." The company warns that "Lights," "Ultra Lights," "Medium" and "Milds" do NOT mean that the product is safe, safer or less harmful. These terms, or descriptors, are used to describe strength of taste and flavor."

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