After years of pressure from Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) today announced that tobacco companies are no longer allowed to use the outdated "FTC Method" of testing tar and nicotine levels as the basis for marketing claims of "light" and "low-tar" cigarettes. Sens. Lautenberg and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) have written legislation to prohibit the continuation of the FTC Method of rating tar and nicotine.

"Today's action calls into question the ability of tobacco companies to continue marketing so-called 'light' and 'low-tar' cigarettes," said Sen. Lautenberg. "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. In reality, so-called 'light' and 'low-tar' cigarettes can actually be more harmful for smokers. Smokers deserve to know the truth and today's action will help make sure they get it."

"As smokers struggle to quit, many have relied on cigarettes labeled as 'low tar' or 'low nicotine' to reduce their risk," Sen. Snowe said. "Such claims are not only inaccurate and misleading, but they also do not reflect the many lethal toxins in cigarette smoke. Today's decision by the FTC will prohibit a continuing deception which carries a tragic cost in lives -- there is simply no safe cigarette."

There are major regulatory and legal implications of the FTC's action today. The FTC has stated that upon this method of tar and nicotine ratings being rescinded, the tobacco industry's use of "light," "ultra light" or "low tar" marketing descriptors "would be evaluated the same as any other advertising or marketing claims subject to the Commission's jurisdiction." In addition, the industry has worked to insulate itself from lawsuits based on the deceptive marketing of "light" cigarettes by claiming that the FTC's approval of the tar and nicotine testing method shielded them from liability. With today's action by the FTC, that legal defense would no longer work in future cases.

Sen. Lautenberg chaired a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on November 13, 2007 to examine the accuracy of the FTC tar and nicotine cigarette rating system, and the marketing claims of tobacco companies based on these ratings. During the hearing, Sen. Lautenberg released a 1975 Philip Morris internal document that showed that the company's own testing method revealed that smokers who switched from Marlboro to Marlboro Lights actually took in more tar from the Marlboro Lights after the switch.

Sens. Lautenberg and Snowe are the authors of S. 2685, a bill to prohibit the cigarette companies from using the "FTC method" for measuring tar and nicotine. The bill was approved by the Senate Commerce Committee.

Sen. Lautenberg is one of the Senate's leaders when it comes to fighting Big Tobacco and protecting Americans from the dangers of smoking. Sen. Lautenberg wrote the law that banned smoking on airplanes, which helped trigger a broader smoke-free revolution. Sen. Lautenberg is also the author of a law that banned smoking in buildings that house federally-funded facilities that serve children.

Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg

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