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FTC Rescinds Guidance On Cigarette Testing

For over four decades the tobacco industry has used machine testing approved by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to measure tar and nicotine levels in cigarettes.

But in a 4-0 vote, the FTC has now shunned the tests, known as the Cambridge Filter Method, rescinding guidance it established 42 years ago.

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) found that cigarette design changes had reduced the amount of tar and nicotine measured by smoking machines using the Cambridge Filter Method. However, there was no evidence the changes reduced disease in smokers. Furthermore, the machine does not account for ways in which smokers adjust their behavior, such as inhaling deeper or more often to maintain nicotine levels.

The FTC said the test method is flawed, and results in erroneous marketing of tar and nicotine levels that could deceive consumers into believing that lighter cigarettes were more safe.  The move means that future advertising that includes the tar levels for cigarettes will not be permitted to include terms such as “by FTC method.”  “Our action today ensures that tobacco companies may not wrap their misleading tar and nicotine ratings in a cloak of government sponsorship,” said FTC Commissioner Jon Leibowitz.  “Simply put, the FTC will not be a smokescreen for tobacco companies’ shameful marketing practices.”

Using current methods, cigarettes with a tar levels in excess of 15 milligrams per cigarette are typically called “full flavored”, while those with less than 15 milligrams are considered “low” or “light”. Cigarettes with tar levels below 6 milligrams are regarded as “ultra low” or “ultra light.”  “The most important aspect of this decision is that it says to consumers that tobacco industry claims relating to tar and nicotine are at best flawed and most likely misleading,” Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, told Reuters.

The commission said that during the 1960s it believed that providing consumers with uniform, standardized information about tar and nicotine levels in cigarettes would help them make better decisions. At that time, most public health officials believed that reducing the amount of tar in a cigarette would also reduce a smoker’s risk of lung cancer. However, that belief no longer exists.Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) introduced legislation earlier this year that would prohibit companies from making claims based on data derived from the Cambridge testing method.  But the bill did not progress to the Senate for a full vote.  “Tobacco companies can no longer rely on the government to back up a flawed testing method that tricks smokers into thinking these cigarettes deliver less tar and nicotine,” said Lautenberg.

Pamela Jones Harbor, an FTC commissioner, called on Congress to approve the regulation of the tobacco industry by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, a move that would authorize government scientists to monitor, analyze and regulate cigarette components.  Tobacco companies have been clear over the years in saying that there is no such thing as a safe cigarette.

In a statement by Philip Morris USA, the United States’ largest tobacco company, the company said it is committed to working with the federal government to identify and adopt testing strategies that improve on the Cambridge method.

FTC BuildingThe FTC said that all four major domestic cigarette makers told commissioners the 1966 recommendations should be retained until a suitable replacement test was approved.  Philip Morris told commissioners that eliminating the current guidance could lead to a “tar derby”, in which cigarette makers would employ different methods to measure yields in their cigarettes, leading to greater consumer confusion.

Source:  Red Orbit