Star Scientific Cites Health Studies in Decision

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CHICAGO ( -- Star Tobacco will remove the word "light" from one of its cigarette brands next month amid a public-health debate over whether terms such as "light" and "utra light" lead smokers to believe low-tar cigarettes carry fewer health risks.

The company will remove the word "light" from packaging for its Vegas 100s styles beginning May 1 and remove similar language from labels on all Vegas styles by Sept. 30, a spokeswoman said.

"We are going to systematically remove those labels and continue to assess consumers' response," the spokeswoman said. "Absent clear evidence that this is muddying the waters instead of being helpful, we would then proceed forward" with other brands.

Star Tobacco, a subsidiary of Star Scientific that markets four discount cigarette brands including Vegas, Main Street, Sport and G-Smoke, plans to continue the label-altering on other brands in the future.

Health study cited
Star has been considering

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removing "light" and "ultra light" from packaging for two years, the spokeswoman said. The company is acting now in response to a recent study released by the National Institutes of Health National Cancer Institute that found smokers believed they were reducing their cancer risk by switching to low-tar brands, despite no evidence to support that.

In addition, the Justice Department last month called for stricter restrictions on tobacco marketing, including the elimination of the words "light," "ultra light," "low tar" or "mild" because they could imply reduced health risks.

Although other cigarette manufacturers have not removed those descriptors, anti-tobacco advocates said they are pleased with Star's action and think it should extend it to all brands immediately

"We welcome Star Scientific's acceptance of the National Cancer Institute's conclusions that the use of terms such as 'light,' 'low tar,' 'mild' and 'ultra light' to describe cigarettes is misleading to consumers, and cigarettes labeled as such have not reduced the risk of smoking-caused disease," said Matthew Myers, president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids in a statement. "Now that Star has acknowledged that these terms must be abandoned ... there is no justification for continuing to use them on any of its products."

Early disclaimer
Star added enhanced health warnings to its Vegas low-tar styles last year, and those disclaimers will remain on the new packaging. That warning includes the qualifier that "lower tar and nicotine cigarettes are NOT safer cigarettes since they are usually smoked more intensively."

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