The landmark tobacco legislation President Obama signed last year banned tobacco companies from using descriptors like "light," "ultralight," "low tar" and "mild" on cigarette labels starting June 22. An FDA guidance document points out that when tobacco companies introduced "light" and "ultralight" cigarettes in the 1960s and 1970s, the implicit message (pdf) in their advertising was that these products were safer and healthier than regular-strength cigarettes. People believed it, and the same belief persists today, as many many smokers still mistakenly believe that "light" and "low tar" cigarettes are safer and cause fewer health problems than full-flavor cigarettes. While tobacco companies will no longer be able to describe their products using misleading words, they aren't too worried. Instead, over the last year or so, they have simply changed the colors of the packs to convey the same message, eventually training people to recognize "light" and "low tar" cigarettes by color instead of words on the pack. All Salem cigarette packages, for example, used to be the same shade of green, but now Salem "lights" are a lighter-colored green and white, and "ultralight" cigarette packs will be pale gray and white. R.J. Reynolds argues that the "smoking experience" is the cigarettes' appeal, not safety, and that different-colored packages will ensure that smokers can still get the taste they desire from cigarettes. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-California) thinks differently, saying the industry has just found a way to evade the law and continue misleading consumers.
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