A 2009 study features in the Journal of Public Health shows that research participants were more likely to rate cigarette packages with the terms light, mild, smooth, and silver as having a smoother taste, pose a lower risk to health and deliver less tar than packages that used words like regular or full flavor. Also, participants rated packages with lighter colors or those that featured pictures of filters as a smoother, lower tar, and lower risk product. Smokers were more likely to believe the the reduced risk than non-smokers. Of note, smokers of light or mild cigarettes were much more likely to believe that their brand was smoother and carried less risk.
The fact is all cigarettes pose the same health risks no matter how Big Tobacco dresses them up. This study points out what Big Tobacco has known for a long time: smokers, especially light or mild smokers believe the product they use poses less risk to their health and will have a smoother flavor. This study is timely and relevant because the FDA will outlaw these words next year but Big Tobacco is already moving its branding and labeling into compliance while still maintaining the myth that light is some how less harmful. More than 40 countries do not allow the use of light or mild because these terms are misleading. The study points to the fact that removing light or mild is not going to be enough- color and a larger list of words must be outlawed to ensure that Big Tobacco can't continue to mislead people with bogus health claims.