Different Colors, Same Old Lies: NYS Smokers’ Quitline Takes On Deceptive Tobacco Marketing

Monday, June 21, 2010

BUFFALO, NY — The New York State Smokers’ Quitline and Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) are launching an educational campaign to alert consumers in Western New York to the deceptive marketing tactics of the tobacco industry by substituting pack colors to replace banned misleading product descriptors such as “light,” “mild,” and “low tar.”

Starting June 22, the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act bans the use of such terms in packaging or advertising because they give the false impression that the products are different and safer. "While banning these misleading product descriptors is appropriate, it is not enough,” said New York State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, MD. “What we see is that the cigarette companies are merely substituting pack colors to continue the deception."

About a month ago, Philip Morris sent around a chart telling retailers about a new color scheme where Marlboro Regular is Marlboro Red, Marlboro Light is now Marlboro Gold, Marlboro Mild becomes Marlboro Blue and Marlboro Ultra-Lights become Marlboro Silver. “The real deception is that the products really don’t differ at all except the tiny invisible vent holes in the filter tip that give the smoker the illusion that the smoke is less strong,” said Rich O’Connor, PhD, Director of the Roswell Park Tobacco Product Testing Laboratory. “The problem with the filter vents is that smokers just take bigger, deeper puffs on the cigarette and in the end there is no difference in the health risks.”

Studies conducted by Maansi Bansal-Travers, PhD, Director of RPCI’s Health Communications Testing Lab, confirm that color and product descriptions used in cigarette package design are misleading to consumers. Dr. Bansal-Travers noted, “In a mall intercept study when we showed people different packs of cigarettes, one lighter than the other, almost everyone said the cigarettes in the lighter pack would deliver less tar, be easier to quit and be less harmful.”

The new TV ad, which was created by the New York City Health Department, advises viewers that cigarettes are deadly, whatever their package color. “Don’t be fooled,” a narrator says as brightly colored packages fill the screen. “All cigarettes contain the same poisons that make you sick and kill you. The new ad and information on where smokers can get help to stop smoking can be found at: 1-866-NY-QUITS or at www.nysmokefree.com.

If New Yorkers see packaging with words like “light,” “low tar,” or “mild,” they can call 1-877-CTP-1373 to report a violation. Reports, including photos, can also be mailed to: FDA Center for Tobacco Products, 9200 Corporate Boulevard, Rockville, MD 20850-3229.

The mission of Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) is to understand, prevent and cure cancer. RPCI, founded in 1898, was one of the first cancer centers in the country to be named a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center and remains the only facility with this designation in Upstate New York. The Institute is a member of the prestigious National Comprehensive Cancer Network, an alliance of the nation’s leading cancer centers; maintains affiliate sites; and is a partner in national and international collaborative programs. For more information call 1-877-ASK-RPCI (1-877-275-7724) or email askrpci@roswellpark.org.

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Media Contact: 

Annie Deck-Miller, Senior Media Relations Manager
716-845-8593; annie.deck-miller@roswellpark.org