Turn Out the Lights

Lautenberg introduces bill to ban "light and low-tar smokes

WASHINGTON -- A group of Democratic lawmakers in the U.S. Senate introduced the Truth in Cigarette Labeling Act late last week to end what they called the decades-long tobacco industry's deceptive practice of labeling some cigarettes as light, mild or low tar.

The legislation, written by United States Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and co-sponsored by fellow Senators Hillary Rodham-Clinton (D-N.Y.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), would prohibit tobacco [image-nocss] companies from using health descriptors like light or low tar, and would also ban the flawed Federal Trade Commission (FTC) test that is currently used by the tobacco industry to advertise incorrect tar and nicotine yields of different brands of cigarettes.

The introduction of the legislation comes on the heels of an August 18 ruling in which U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler found that tobacco companies had been deliberately deceiving smokers about the dangers of cigarettes, and ordered them to stop labeling cigarettes as light, low tar or with other deceptive descriptors. Tobacco companies will appeal that ruling, which will delay the judge's order from taking effect.

"A court of law found that big tobacco lied to the American people, and ordered them to stop its deceptive marketing, said Lautenberg. Big tobacco's lawyers are trying to drag the case out in court. That's why we need to move fast to help stop the cigarette companies from continuing to make these fraudulent claims.

He said, Ultimately, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) must be granted authority over tobacco products, but it won't happen this year in the Republican-controlled Congress. That is why we need to move quickly on this emergency measure in the meantime.

Lautenberg touted a 1975 Philip Morris memo that proves that cigarette companies have known for decades that smokers who switch from Marlboro to Marlboro Lights generally ingest more tar from Marlboro Lights than regular Marlboro cigarettes. The PM document is available at this link.

Lautenberg wrote the law that banned smoking on commercial airlines two decades ago, and offered an amendment to FTC legislation in 2005 that would have ended the deceptive marketing of light or low-tar cigarettes. The measure was defeated on a party line vote in the Senate Commerce Committee.

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