Our WebMD Guest Blogger is Ursula E. Bauer, PhD, MPH. Dr. Bauer is Director of the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
On June 22, 2009, President Obama signed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, giving the Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate tobacco products. Last week, on the anniversary of this historic legislation, a number of new regulations went into effect, including prohibition of the use of descriptors like “light, “low,” and “mild” on tobacco product labels, labeling, and advertising without an FDA order (see New Tobacco Controls Have Public Health Impact for more information).
Smokers have misinterpreted the terms “light” and “low-tar” to mean these cigarettes are less dangerous than “regular” cigarettes. However, smoking these cigarettes does not reduce a smoker’s risk of developing smoking-related cancers and other diseases. Each year, an estimated 443,000 people die prematurely from smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke, and another 8.6 million live with a serious illness caused by smoking. Over time, FDA’s new regulations will reduce the suffering, disease, and premature death caused by tobacco use. When the terms “light” and “low-tar” were first introduced, many smokers who were concerned about their health switched to these cigarettes instead of quitting. Without the misleading descriptors, more smokers may be motivated to quit, and fewer smokers may be confused about just how dangerous all cigarettes are.
All cigarettes are harmful to your health – no matter the label or the color of the package or how “smooth” they feel. The single best step smokers can take to protect their health is to quit smoking. For more information and resources to help you quit smoking, please call 1-800-QUIT-NOW or visit www.smokefree.gov and www.cdc.gov/tobacco.
Would you like to quit or do you know someone who would like to quit? Talk with others in the WebMD Smoking Cessation Community.