Smokers in the United States used to buy cigarettes that claimed to be “ultra-light,” “mild,” or “light-flavored.”
Cigarettes developed by tobacco companies were promoted in the 1960s and 70s as a healthier alternative to “normal” or “full flavor” cigarettes, claiming that they contained less tar and nicotine. Many studies linking smoking and cancer were published at the time, and this was the manufacturer’s response to this question.
Smokers notice that the smoke of light cigarettes does feel smoother and lighter in the throat and chest, so it seems true that light cigarettes are definitely healthier than regular cigarettes, but this is not the case. However, the idea that light cigarettes are a better smoking option has been deeply rooted for decades.
What makes cigarettes “light”
Cigarette manufacturers define low-tar cigarettes in the following ways:
- Ultra-light or ultra-low tar: tar production is about 7 mg or less
- Light tar or low tar: about 8-14 mg of tar production
- Full flavor or regular: about 15 mg or more of tar production
The use of machines that “smoked” cigarettes to obtain the tar levels of ultra-light and light cigarettes is a problematic way of making these measurements. The way the machine smokes is different from that of humans, so it is difficult to get an accurate reading. In addition, no two people smoke in the same way, so tar levels can and will vary greatly from one smoker to another. The production of machine-smoked tar is usually lower than the amount of tar that humans can inhale.
It’s important to note that the tobacco industry itself determines the definition of “ultra-light” and “light”, not the federal agency you might expect.
Cigarette manufacturers have adopted some strategies to try to change the composition of tobacco smoke and the way the smoke is inhaled in order to classify cigarettes as “light” cigarettes, but there are also some worrying results:
- Cigarette filters made of cellulose acetate are used to capture particulate matter in cigarette smoke (tar) to prevent them from entering the lungs of smokers. Cellulose acetate is a white cotton-like material that forms the inside of the filter. The filter does catch some tar, but most of it will escape the filter and be sucked in. It also floats in the air and is part of cigarette smoke, known as third-hand smoke.
- The paper used in light cigarettes has more pores than the paper used in ordinary cigarettes, allowing the chemicals in the smoke to be expelled through the paper before reaching the smoker’s mouth. However, these chemicals are still present in the air around the smoker, and if in a closed space, they will be inhaled as second-hand smoke.
- Add tiny perforated holes in the cigarette filter to allow air and tobacco smoke to be inhaled, thereby diluting the smoke. Unfortunately, many people unconsciously cover the hole with their fingers while holding a cigarette, thus failing to achieve this goal. Some smokers even deliberately cover up pinholes because the diluted smoke does not provide a satisfactory smoking experience, and/or they smoke larger cigarettes a day and smoke a few more cigarettes to make up for the lower nicotine content.
Can you still buy a small cigarette?
The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009 granted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration the power to regulate tobacco products.
One of the first actions taken was to restrict the way cigarette companies describe their products. They can no longer use the words “light”, “low” or “mild” on cigarette packaging, because science does not support this statement and will mislead the public.
Tobacco companies invest in promoting their products in the most positive way possible, so losing the ability to label cigarettes as light or mild is a blow.Secretly, many people have started to use color codingCigarette packaging triggers the concept of “light” for smokers who bought these same brands (often with the same color) in the past. For example, Camel Lights is now Camel Blues, and Marlboro Ultralights is now Marlboro Silver.
In other parts of the world, cigarettes with a “light” label can still be bought.
No safe cigarettes
A report from the National Cancer Institute (NCI)The conclusion is that light cigarettes do not have any health benefits for smokers. People who switch from regular cigarettes to lighter cigarettes will be exposed to the same toxic chemicals and have the same risk of developing smoking-related diseases.
Light-flavored cigarettes do not reduce the health risks of smoking; the only way to reduce your risks and the risks faced by others around you is to quit smoking altogether. Quitting smoking can also reduce the risk of lung cancer, heart disease, stroke and chronic lung disease.