Big Tobacco had a good thing going for decades, convincing customers that “light” or “ultra-light” cigarettes were “better”.
They were encouraged to produce “low tar” cigarettes when researchers and U.S. Congress made the conclusion in 1967 that cigarettes delivering less tar would produce less cancer risk. These findings were based on a study that painted tar on mice and analyzed cancer risk.
Many smokers lived with a false sense of reduced risk, smoking more cigarettes over longer periods of time.
The rouse came crashing to a halt when research found cancer risk did not improve for smokers over time. “Low tar” cigarettes didn’t help people cut back on smoking, either.
Just like that, “light” or “low tar” cigarettes burst into flames -- pun intended.
At LUCY, we’re here to help people who want to cut back or quit smoking cigarettes. We believe tobacco is the problem, but nicotine can be part of the solution. For smokers who want to cut back or quit, we know “light” or “low tar” cigarettes would never make the cut. Here are seven reasons why:
#1. Research consistently determined low tar cigarettes aren’t less harmful than regular cigarettes
In 1978, researchers Gio Gori and Cornelius Lynch conducted a study, attempting to determine “less hazardous” levels of smoking, quantifying how many cigarettes one could theoretically smoke without enduring “major toxic smoke components”. One month before it was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Victor Cohn published a story in the Washington Post, taking hold of the summary and published a front-page headline: “Some Cigarettes Now ‘Tolerable,’ Doctor Says.”
A PR nightmare ensued, with multiple public health officials decrying the article as deeply disturbing and concluding that “there is no such thing as a safe cigarette.”
At one point, Congress encouraged the production of light cigarettes, thinking they would be a useful option for people unwilling to quit smoking. Early research indicated they may be a better option, and studies even found that those who smoked low tar cigarettes had lower rates of lung cancer incidence.
Unfortunately, those studies were not conclusive, as rates of lung cancer among men and women climbed throughout the 1990s. In recent years, lung cancer has become the #1 cancer killer among women, according to the American Lung Association.
The design changes made by cigarette manufacturers over the last 50 years, including “light” cigarettes, have not led to reduced disease risks among smokers.
#2. Cigarettes cause cancer. Period.
Cigarettes have been known to cause cancer since the 1950s. Once this research became public, cigarette companies began to add filters to their products. Under a protocol established by the Federal Trade Commission, tar yields in cigarettes reduced by over 60% within roughly 50 years.
Health authorities thought they had achieved a miracle. But the reduction in tar did not have long-lasting effects on preventing cancer incidence and death rates.
Low tar cigarettes didn’t change anything about the carcinogenic effects that come from smoking. Today, many non-smokers are diagnosed with cancer, including lung cancer.
#3. Smokers consume cigarettes to get a nicotine fix
When Congress encouraged Big Tobacco to manufacture “light” cigarettes, they operated under the assumption that buying habits and smoking habits would stay the same, resulting in a decrease in harmful effects from tobacco.
What did they forget? People who smoke are “powerfully addicted” to nicotine, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Smokers choose to smoke cigarettes when they have a nicotine craving. Cigarettes are produced with a similar ratio of tar and nicotine, and research found that many smokers ended up increasing the number of cigarettes they smoked per day, just to get the nicotine fix they craved.
#4. Low tar cigarettes were tested to reveal low tar and nicotine values when machine smoked, but the reality told a different story
“Low tar” cigarettes were engineered differently, but smokers caught on quickly, realizing they could alter their puffing in order to deliver more nicotine, and more tar in the process. They’d opt to take longer puffs, inhale significantly more than usual, puff more often, and ultimately smoke more cigarettes per day.
Some smokers also chose to cover up the small holes in cigarette filters. The “low tar” cigarettes were actually made with filters that were easier for users to cover up using their fingers or mouth.
Researchers determined that these two criteria resulted in most, if not nearly all, smokers did not lower their tar exposure by switching to “low tar” cigarettes.
#5. Marketing cigarettes as “less harmful” wasn’t an option for Big Tobacco
If cigarette manufacturers decided to sell a certain type of cigarette as “healthier” or “less likely to cause cancer”, they’d have to come clean that their products are bad for you, and you’d be better off without them.
Even suggesting that one cigarette is “better for you” than another, well...that would mean accepting that they’re all bad for you. Doesn’t sound like a successful marketing campaign, does it?
Because of this, Big Tobacco held firm that their products did not cause disease. They produced cigarettes under “light” and “ultra-light” labels to appeal to smokers who were considering quitting. Smokers were under an illusion that they were opting for something that might help them cut back on cigarettes, unaware that tobacco companies knowingly produced cigarettes that still harmed them.
Even if light cigarettes had a significant impact in decreasing the negative health effects from tobacco, the companies that produced them would still be complicit in creating an enormous amount of cancer, heart disease, and death from the sale of their products.
After all, cigarettes remain “the only legal consumer product that kills up to half of its users when used exactly as intended by the manufacturer”, according to the Pan American Health Organization.
#6. Environmental pollutants and dangers caused by cigarettes
In 1981, many scientific journals became among the first to publish the hazards of environmental tobacco smoke. The term “secondhand smoke” evolved in years to come as an imminent danger from being around those who smoked cigarettes in the workplace, restaurants, and anywhere in public.
“Light” or “low tar” cigarettes were not exempt from the environmental toxicity of tobacco smoke.
#7. The concept of harm reduction led to public demand and scientific backing for true harm reduction aids: nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs)
“Low tar” cigarettes emerged as a response to help people who smoked reduce their exposure to the harmful health effects of tar.
Tobacco manufacturers used adjectives such as “light”, “low”, and “mild” for decades. These terms were all banned under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act in 2009.
When nicotine became the target for the addictive nature of cigarettes, a new market emerged. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved nicotine gum as a form of nicotine replacement therapy in 1984.
We created LUCY chew and park because we believe smokers want a convenient, easy-to-use product that can help them cut back on smoking, whether they’re at work, out with friends, or enjoying life. We believe we’ve made a nicotine gum that tastes great, and we hope you’ll agree.
The information contained in this website is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended as, nor should not be construed as a substitute for, professional medical or health advice on any subject matter. Please consult your physician regarding any health or medical treatment decisions.