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Cigarette Packaging Still Too Alluring, Studies Find
Date:5/27/2011

By Jenifer Goodwin
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, May 27 (HealthDay News) -- Savvy tobacco companies are using color and other design elements to circumvent new U.S. regulations that crack down on misleading cigarette packaging, researchers say.

As of June 2010, tobacco companies were prohibited from using terms such as "light," "mild" or "low," which minimize the dangers of smoking, in advertising and on cigarette packaging. But tobacco companies have found other terms, colors and even numbers to create an illusion of safety, according to several new studies from the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, N.Y.

The researchers determined that certain design features -- light- or pastel-colored packaging associated with mild cigarettes, for example, and carefully chosen numbers -- enable cigarette makers to skirt the laws.

"Though the removal of descriptor terms like 'mild,' 'light' and 'low' are a good start, manufacturers have basically replaced these terms with terms such as 'gold' and 'silver,' and changed the shading on packs to continue to mislead consumers," said study author Maansi Bansal-Travers, a behavioral research scientist at Roswell Park.

Another expert agreed that cigarette makers are using code language to falsely convince consumers that some cigarettes are less deadly than others.

"From international evidence, we know smokers who see white, silver or light colored packs are likely to associate them with lower harm products; blue packs with mild products; red with regular [full-flavor] products; and green with menthol," said Janet Hoek, a professor of marketing at University of Otago in New Zealand. "Pack colors have become quite strongly paired in smokers," and they now recognize them without any verbal descriptions, she added.

Hoek, who was not involved with the research, is an expert on tobacco regulation and other issues.

The three studies, published in the June issue
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