Smokers who buy certain brands of cigarettes may notice some marketing changes and buying a pack of “Light 100s” soon will be impossible. New federal regulations that went into effect today ban tobacco companies from putting certain words on cigarette packaging.
“What the F.D.A. regulations are going to require is that they get rid of all labeling that says ‘light’ or ‘low tar’ or mild’ because people have the misperception that those products are somehow less harmful which is not the case,” says Bonnie Mapes, director of the Iowa Department of Public Health’s Tobacco Use Prevention and Control division. “The disease and death rates for those products is exactly the same.”
According to Mapes, there’s “a lot of research” which shows people think products marketed as “light” or “mild” are “less harmful” than other kinds of cigarettes. “We’re hoping that with these designations gone that more people will begin to make quit attempts and be successful in quitting,” Mapes says.
As a result of these new Federal Drug Administration rules, tobacco companies have begun using new names and new colors on the packaging of some products. While some warehouses may still have cartons of cigarettes with the words “mild” or “light” on the packaging, the companies may no longer distribute those cigarettes as of July 22, 2010.
“They are, however, sort of getting around that marketing by using colors on their packaging so what used to be the ‘light’ or ‘mild’ might be in a package that’s a lighter color. Salem is an example. The regular Salem is a very dark green pack, then there’s a step down and that’s a lighter green and then what used to be the light product is in a very pale green package,” Mapes says. “So the packaging is different, but the ‘light’ and ‘mild’ designations are gone.”
Marlboro Lights, for example, are now sold in gold packaging.
Many other new federal tobacco restrictions which went into effect today have been the law in Iowa for years. For example, federal law now prohibits the sale of tobacco products to someone who is under the age of 18.
“In Iowa we’ve had very good enforcement in place for more than a decade and our compliance rate with our state law is at 92 percent so this is something that just helps us support our enforcement,” Mapes says. “But in many states this is really going to make an impact in the sales to minors.”
The new federal standards place new restrictions on the sale of tobacco products in vending machines, too, but Mapes says there are very few cigarette vending machines left in Iowa since state law has restricted tobacco vending machines to “adults-only” establishments.