Light cigarettes have special filters designed to dilute cigarette smoke. Tobacco companies refer to them as low-tar, mild, or ultra-light cigarettes. For example, R.J. Reynolds sells both Marlboro and Marlboro Lights. Many smokers choose light cigarettes because they think they're less harmful, but this often isn't the case.
Although light cigarettes may feel smoother and lighter on the throat and chest, they pose just as many health risks as other cigarettes. There is no such thing as a safe cigarette. Any cigarette presents public health challenges. The only way to reduce your health risks and the threat to others through second-hand smoke is to quit smoking altogether.
This article will discuss the risks of smoking light cigarettes. It will also explain why they are no safer than non-light cigarettes. Finally, we'll describe whether you may have a valid claim against the tobacco companies if you develop a smoking-related illness.
Light Cigarette Tar and Nicotine Numbers
You may think that you can gauge which cigarettes are safe by looking at the tar and nicotine yield numbers on cigarette packs. These numbers listed in accordance with federal cigarette labeling requirements offer a reference point for comparing full-strength and light cigarettes. They don't necessarily reflect the precise amount of these substances you inhale. The numbers are misleading with respect to the health benefits of light cigarettes.
When you look for a nicotine yield number on a cigarette package, you assume it indicates the chemicals in the cigarette. Tobacco companies use smoking machines to determine tar and nicotine yields.
These machines smoke every brand of cigarette in the same way. Smokers, unlike machines, crave nicotine. They may inhale more deeply than the machines. They may also take larger, more rapid, or more frequent puffs.
Some people smoke a few extra cigarettes every day to make up for the lower nicotine. This means they may inhale more tar, nicotine, and other harmful chemicals than the machine-based numbers suggest.
Light cigarettes also have tiny pinholes on their filters. These "filter vents" dilute cigarette smoke with air when "puffed" by smoking machines. This results in artificially low measurements of tar and nicotine levels. When you block these vents, your light cigarette becomes a regular cigarette.
Lastly, when cigarette makers increase the length of the paper filter wrap, they decrease the number of puffs during the machine test. The tobacco under the wrap is still available to the smoker and isn't burned during the machine test. As a result, the machine measures less tar and nicotine levels than is available to the smoker.
Health Effects of Light Cigarettes
According to the National Cancer Institute, light cigarettes provide no benefit to a smoker's health. Smokers who switch from regular cigarettes to light cigarettes inhale just as many dangerous chemicals. This leaves them at high risk of smoking-related cancers and other diseases.
There is no evidence suggesting that switching to light cigarettes will help smokers quit. Quitting smoking reduces the risk of dying from lung cancer.
Tobacco Litigation and Light Cigarettes
Consumers have been suing big tobacco companies since the 1950s. Early cases focused on failure to warn customers about the dangers of tobacco products. Remarkably, few plaintiffs won their lawsuits back then.
In the 1980s, plaintiffs shifted their arguments to focus on the defendants' deceptive marketing tactics. Once again, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the tobacco companies.
It wasn't until the 1990s that smokers started to win their cases against cigarette manufacturers. Unfortunately, the courts overturned most of these verdicts on appeal. For example, a jury in Florida state court ruled in favor of a smoker and awarded them a multi-million dollar verdict. The appellate court overturned the verdict. Even today, it's difficult for product liability attorneys to prevail for their clients.
The major problem for plaintiffs is that the courts accept the defendants' argument that smokers assumed the risk. For years, tobacco companies have put warning labels on their products. The tobacco industry dedicates millions of dollars to the National Public Education Foundation, which teaches young people about the dangers of smoking.
Light cigarettes have been the focus of several federal lawsuits filed in U.S. district courts. Plaintiffs argue that tobacco companies defrauded them into thinking light cigarettes were safe. There are also charges of racketeering under federal RICO laws.
The tobacco companies argue that the light designation refers to a lighter-tasting cigarette. They deny claims that they say light cigarettes are safer.
Federal judges don't believe that, in this day and age, a smoker isn't aware of the dangers of smoking. This includes people who smoke light cigarettes. The only progress light cigarette smokers have made is that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Altria Group, Inc. v. Good that federal cigarette regulations didn't preempt the Maine state consumer protection law prohibiting deceptive tobacco advertising.
Can I Sue Over Light Cigarettes or Join an Existing Class Action Lawsuit?
Thousands of Americans have sued tobacco companies such as Philip Morris USA for their claims about light cigarettes. Plaintiffs claim that tobacco companies defrauded them into thinking that light cigarettes were a safer alternative to regular cigarettes.
If you or your loved one has developed a smoking-related illness, you should first contact your doctor. You may also wish to meet with an experienced product liability attorney to discuss your legal options.
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Contact a qualified product liability attorney to make sure your rights are protected.