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Light, mild and smooth? Yeah Right

Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) New Zealand

Media Release

For Immediate Release

Dated: 24 July 2006

Light, mild and smooth? Yeah Right

A new survey shows terms such as light, mild and smooth create considerable confusion about the harm caused by cigarettes.

The survey, conducted by researchers from Massey University and supported by ASH New Zealand, suggests the New Zealand government should urgently review the descriptors used on cigarette packets.

Following on from earlier work that examined how Australian consumers interpreted “light”, the current study examined how a sample of New Zealand adolescents interpreted ‘light” and “mild”, and an alternative, “smooth”, which Australian tobacco manufacturers plan to use as a replacement for “light” and “mild”.

Professor Janet Hoek, from Massey¹s College of Business, led the research and said the results showed young people often incorrectly perceived brands labeled as “light”, “mild” or “smooth” as less harmful or less addictive. Professor Hoek states: “We now have research from New Zealand demonstrating substantial mis-interpretation of these terms among young people”.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has entered into arrangements with several tobacco companies that will see the removal of the words “light” and “mild” from cigarette packets. It will also see the tobacco companies pay for a remedial campaign designed to correct false beliefs held by smokers.

ASH NZ Director Becky Freeman says: “The tobacco industry has routinely exploited every opportunity to attract new users to their lethal product. As promotion channels have become less available, they have paid more and more attention to the design of their packages and the words used on these. We urge the government to follow Australia’s lead and afford New Zealand citizens the same level of protection.”

Professor Hoek concurs with the need for regulatory action. “We know that young people are seduced by the glamorous imagery the tobacco industry still associate with smoking and that, because of this, they do not understand how addictive nicotine is, or the longer term risks of smoking.”

“Terms such as “light”, “mild” and “smooth” are widely misunderstood by young people, and create the impression that cigarettes labelled in this way are less harmful or less addictive.”

Ms Freeman calls upon the government to ban the use of deceptive descriptors. “There is compelling international evidence that these descriptors imply health benefits that are simply not delivered – if this is not deception, it is hard to know what is.”


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