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  » Smoking and health effect  »  "Light" and "Mild" Cigarettes - Facts
Quick Facts
  • In a 1998-99 survey for Health Canada, Smokers' Attitudes Towards "Light" and "Mild" Cigarettes, it was found that:

    • 39% of smokers who switched from a regular to a "light" or "mild" brand did so for health reasons and 18% switched as a step toward quitting.
    • 47% of smokers think that "light" means lower in tar, nicotine or carbon monoxide; 28% believe that "mild" means lower in tar, nicotine or carbon monoxide.
    • When asked whether the terms were confusing, 59% of Canadian smokers said they find "light" and "mild" descriptors confusing and 38% said they would like more information about the meaning of these terms.
    • 24% of smokers think that manufacturers label their products "light" or "mild" as an advertising gimmick.
  • Cigarette packaging must provide information on the emission levels of six toxic chemicals, now presented in the form of a range: a low number and a high number -- for example, 'Tar 14 - 34 mg.' This new range better reflects the fact that individuals smoke differently...and people don't smoke like machines.
  • The European Union has also decided to act on "light" and "mild" cigarette brand descriptors: effective September 2003 such terms will be forbidden on the packaging of tobacco products.
Quick Killers

Because cigarette smoking is addictive, many smokers have great difficulty quitting, even though they know that smoking is harmful to their health. Some smokers try to get on the road to quitting (links to Treatment) by cutting back and switching to brands of cigarettes that are labelled "light" or "mild"... and some may postpone indefinitely further attempts to quit smoking.

Some choose brands labelled as "light" in the mistaken belief that the smoke from such cigarettes could be healthier. But these smokers may consciously or unconsciously adjust their way of smoking -- by inhaling deeper and longer, or covering the filter ventilation holes, for instance -- to ensure that they inhale enough to achieve a satisfactory nicotine 'hit'. But by increasing their intake of nicotine in this fashion, smokers also inhale more tar and other carcinogens.

Lighter, Milder, or Just More Confusing?
  • Regular size du Maurier "light", "extra light" and "ultra light" can all deliver about the same amount of nicotine.
  • Export A "light" and "special light" deliver exactly the same levels of listed toxic emissions.
  • Nicotine delivery for all six Player's brands is just about the same: the high range varies from 2.7 to 3.3 mg per cigarette.
  • Craven A regular-size "full-strength" and "light" brands can deliver exactly the same amount of all six listed toxic ingredients.
  • Rothmans, du Maurier and Craven A all market "Special Mild" king-size brands. Tar and nicotine emissions vary as much as 300% between these brands even though they all share the same descriptive name.