Light Cigarettes FAQ

Q: What are light cigarettes?
A: Light cigarettes (also advertised as "low-tar," "mild," or "ultra-light" cigarettes) have special filters designed to dilute cigarette smoke.

Q: Has there been any recent news about light cigarettes?
A: Light cigarettes have recently been the focus of federal lawsuits filed in U.S.District Court. The plaintiffs allege that tobacco companies defrauded them into thinking light cigarettes were safer than regular cigarettes. The defendant tobacco companies argue that the term "light" refers to a lighter-tasting cigarette, and that consumers should understand the term's intended meaning.

Q: Are light cigarettes healthier than "regular" or "full-flavor" cigarettes?
A: Although light cigarettes may feel smoother and lighter on the throat and chest, they are not healthier and do not reduce health risks related to smoking. Smokers who switch from regular cigarettes to light cigarettes are likely to inhale the same amount of hazardous chemicals, and remain at high risk for developing smoking-related cancers and other diseases. Because there is no such thing as a safe cigarette, the only way to reduce a smoker's health risks (and the risk to others through second-hand smoke) is to quit smoking altogether.

Q: What do the tar and nicotine numbers found on cigarette packs mean?
A: Tar and nicotine yield numbers serve as a reference point for the amount of tar and nicotine a smoker may inhale. The numbers come from smoking machines, which"smoke" every brand of cigarettes the same way.However, these numbers do not reflect the precise amount a smoker inhales since no two people smoke the same way.

Q: Why don't the tar and nicotine numbers accurately reflect the actual amounts that smokers inhale?
A: First, smokers(unlike machines) may inhale more deeply; take larger, more rapid, or frequent puffs; or smoke a few extra cigarettes each day. So, smokers may end up inhaling more tar, nicotine, and other harmful chemicals than the machine-based numbers suggest.

Second, light cigarettes have tiny pinholes on the filters. These "filter vents" dilute cigarette smoke with air when "puffed" by smoking machines, resulting in artificially low measurements of tar and nicotine levels. But the filter vents are placed only millimeters from where smokers may place their lips or fingers. By blocking these vents, a light cigarette basically becomes a regular cigarette.

Lastly, when cigarette makers increase the length of the paper wrap that covers the outside of the cigarette filter, the number of puffs decreases during the machine test. The tobacco under the wrap is still available to the smoker and is not burned during the machine test. As a result,the machine measures less tar and nicotine levels than is available to the smoker.

Q: Can I file a lawsuit over light cigarettes, or join an existing suit?
A: A number of light cigarette lawsuits have been filed recently in federal court, with plaintiffs claiming that tobacco companies defrauded them into thinking that light cigarettes were a safer alternative to regular cigarettes. If you or a loved one has suffered illness that may be attributed to smoking light cigarettes, you should first contact your doctor or other healthcare professional. You may also wish to meet with an experienced attorney to discussyour legal options and your potential right to a legal remedy for any harm caused by light cigarettes.

Next Steps

Contact a qualified product liability attorney to make sure your rights are protected.

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