The Dangers of Advertising Low Tar Cigarettes: Let's Understand What Consumers Understand
Joel B. Cohen
University of Florida
Survey data presented in this chapter raises concerns about smokers' understanding and use of advertised tar numbers resulting from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) testing method. These results are presented against the historical background of government policy to reduce the overall tar level of cigarettes offered for sale, the cigarette industry's targeting of health concerned smokers via low tar cigarettes, and growing misgivings about the value of this information to smokers.
The notion that "tar" might be of some concern to smokers was first brought to widespread attention in the early 1940s when several tobacco companies associated lower tar with less throat irritation in their advertising. The FTC brought several suits against such advertising, and tar and nicotine claims in advertising subsided until Consumer Reports published tar and nicotine ratings by brand in the early 1950s.1 The FTC again brought suit against advertising claims linked to tar and nicotine levels, and in 1955 published cigarette advertising guidelines prohibiting relative tar and nicotine claims in the absence of competent scientific proof that the claim was true, and the differences among cigarettes were significant. The latter reflected the FTC's view that tar and nicotine claims were, in fact, implied health claims. Indeed, in 1959 all cigarette companies were informed that any representation of low or reduced tar or nicotine would be construed as a health claim by the agency.____________________