The dark side of marketing seemingly "Light" cigarettes: successful images and failed fact

Tob Control. 2002 Mar;11 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):I18-31. doi: 10.1136/tc.11.suppl_1.i18.


Objective: To understand the development, intent, and consequences of US tobacco industry advertising for low machine yield cigarettes.

Methods: Analysis of trade sources and internal US tobacco company documents now available on various web sites created by corporations, litigation, or public health bodies.

Results: When introducing low yield products, cigarette manufacturers were concerned about maintaining products with acceptable taste/flavour and feared consumers might become weaned from smoking. Several tactics were employed by cigarette manufacturers, leading consumers to perceive filtered and low machine yield brands as safer relative to other brands. Tactics include using cosmetic (that is, ineffective) filters, loosening filters over time, using medicinal menthol, using high tech imagery, using virtuous brand names and descriptors, adding a virtuous variant to a brand's product line, and generating misleading data on tar and nicotine yields.

Conclusions: Advertisements of filtered and low tar cigarettes were intended to reassure smokers concerned about the health risks of smoking, and to present the respective products as an alternative to quitting. Promotional efforts were successful in getting smokers to adopt filtered and low yield cigarette brands. Corporate documents demonstrate that cigarette manufacturers recognised the inherent deceptiveness of cigarette brands described as "Light"or "Ultra-Light" because of low machine measured yields.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Advertising / economics
  • Advertising / methods*
  • Advertising / trends
  • Deception
  • Female
  • Filtration
  • Health Promotion*
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / etiology
  • Product Packaging / methods*
  • Set, Psychology
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Smoking / psychology*
  • Tars / analysis
  • Tobacco Industry / methods


  • Tars