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Commerce Comm'n decision on tobacco descriptions

Media Release

24 September 2008

Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) NZ

Misleading descriptors

Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) is disappointed over the outcome of the Commerce Commission investigation whether the use of misleading descriptive terms on tobacco including the terms ‘light’ and ‘mild’ are misleading under the Fair Trading Act

“Tobacco companies have been conning their customers with these false descriptors for years. Giving them a warning is not good enough. Instead of holding them to account for years of cheating their customers out of their health, we’ve gone down the road of self regulation – history shows that this simply doesn’t work”said Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) Director, Ben Youdan.

In Australia when the terms ‘light’ and ‘mild’ have been banned the tobacco industry has exploited restrictions through the use of other terms such as ‘smooth’ or ‘mellow. We need reassurance that the same re-branding of the problem will not happen here, and we end up back where we started.

“The terms such as ‘light’ and ‘mild’ imply a sense of reduced harm compared to regular or ‘full strength’ tobacco. This isn’t the case - research has found that there is the same risk posed by both forms of tobacco - there is no such thing as a safe cigarette.”

Mr Youdan adds that many smokers simply switched to tobacco labelled with the misleading terms believing it can help then to quit, or is less harmful.

“The terms have become inextricably linked with branding and colours – to simply issue a warning to tobacco companies does not tackle the problem head-on. We’re calling for all misleading descriptors to be removed from packaging and for the tobacco industry to take responsibility for deceiving smokers with these false descriptors” concludes Mr Youdan.


Notes to editors:

ASH, the Cancer Society and the Smokefree Coalition joined forces to increase the awareness of the dangers of light and mild cigarettes in New Zealand and to put an end to tobacco company deception by lodging a complaint with the Commission.

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