Lighter colors mean safer smoke?

At Sociological Images, they repeated a few of the recent comments about tobacco companies using color coding to distinguish their products and the idea that consumers would associate lighter colors with a safer cigarette.

I think it is quite possible that smokers do associate lighter colors with a safer smoke. And it would be unfortunate that someone who otherwise might have switched to a safer alternative such as e-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco, or even quit altogether, did not because they thought they were now safe enough.

What I find curious is that the lighter packaging is considered underhanded. For one thing, if you take any two different packs of cigarettes, one is going to be lighter than the other -it is hard to get around that limitation. For another, even though people seem to associate lightness with less harmful, it is also fairly common knowledge that “light” cigarettes have not ended up reducing the risks of smoking.

So then why not take the “light” brand and make it the darker package?

If the pattern holds, more people will start buying the lighter package of higher tar cigarettes and think it is safer. According to the authorities, it should not really increase their risks so no one is really the worse off. And ultimately it may introduce enough confusion into consumers’ minds about what might be safer that this whole distinction will disappear.

Then people who would have quit but for thinking they had the safer cigarette might just quit or switch out of frustration of not knowing how to select their “safer” cigarette.

– Paul L. Bergen

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Comments

  • Michael J. McFadden  On July 19, 2010 at 3:25 pm

    A funny thing that few seem to remember is that the governments themselves were pushing the “light” cigarettes as “safer” just a few years ago. I think the UK implemented the plan, but it was discussed over here in the States too: Taxing the stronger cigarettes at a higher rate!

    – MJJM

  • Paul  On July 19, 2010 at 3:39 pm

    Right you are Michael,

    And what we have to look forward to is that 1. FDA and such will argue for or compel companies to lower levels of suspected toxins in tobacco and then 2. declare that the modified products are no safer.

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