New Survey Shows Misperceptions About 'Light' Cigarettes Persist

Despite new packaging law, smokers still incorrectly believe they can choose safer cigarette options

Jun 22, 2010, 13:51 ET from GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare

PARSIPPANY, N.J., June 22 /PRNewswire/ -- Today, new legislation will go into effect surrounding the ban of word descriptors such as "light," "low," and "mild" on all packaging and advertising of existing cigarettes and smokeless products.(1) However, a new survey, sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Consumer Healthcare, shows that many smokers will choose the cigarettes in lighter-colored packaging because they incorrectly believe these cigarettes would be less harmful to their health or make it easier to quit smoking.(2)

The survey shows more than one-third of smokers misunderstand the health impact of "light" or "mild" cigarettes.(2) Almost half of smokers surveyed (44 percent) say they typically smoke "light" or "ultra light" cigarettes, with one-quarter of these smokers saying they do so because they mistakenly believe "light" cigarettes are less harmful and/or easier to quit than regular cigarettes.(2)

The majority (68 percent) of smokers also say the changes prohibiting the words "light" or "mild" will not make it difficult for them to identify their preferred type of cigarettes.(2) Eighty-seven percent say even without the words on the label, they will be able to identify what would constitute "light" cigarettes by the color and design of the packaging.(2)

"Research has shown that many smokers choose light cigarettes because they believe these cigarettes may be less harmful to their health, and even make it easier to quit smoking," said Saul Shiffman, Ph.D., professor in the departments of psychology and pharmaceutical science at the University of Pittsburgh and Senior Scientific Advisor at Pinney Associates, which provides consulting services to GlaxoSmithKline. "Repackaged light cigarettes with different colors are just as deadly as packs bearing the lights descriptor. The best way to reduce the health risks caused by smoking is to stop smoking completely. Nicotine replacement therapy is safe and effective, and proven to help a smoker get off cigarettes and manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms during the process."

GSK's survey shows that while almost two-thirds of smokers say they have made a serious attempt to quit, only 42 percent feel they would be able to quit on their own, and despite needing help, nearly half (46 percent) are unaware that nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) can improve one's chances of quitting successfully.(2) Misperceptions about the products designed to help smokers quit also exist - 40 percent incorrectly believe light cigarettes are just as safe or safer as a means of quitting compared to NRT.(2)

NRT products have helped millions of people around the world quit smoking and, as a result, have significantly reduced their exposure to the risks of cancer and other smoking-related diseases.(3) They are recommended as first-line treatments for smoking addiction in the U.S. and can reliably increase long-term smoking abstinence rates.(4,5)

Smokers interested in quitting can access free tools and resources at and  

About the Survey

An online survey was conducted among 311 adult smokers in the U.S. Smokers were carefully screened and recruited to represent the population of adult smokers in terms of gender, age, ethnicity, education, and income according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC's) 2008 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). Data were collected between June 9 and June 12, 2010. Survey design, data collection, and analysis were done by Versta Research and sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare.

About GlaxoSmithKline® Consumer Healthcare

GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare is one of the world's largest over-the-counter consumer healthcare products companies. Its more than 30 well-known brands include the leading smoking cessation products, Nicorette®, NicoDerm®CQ®, and Commit®, as well as many products such as alli®, Aquafresh®, Sensodyne®, and TUMS® -- which are trademarks owned by and/or licensed to GlaxoSmithKline Group of Companies.

About GlaxoSmithKline®

GlaxoSmithKline – one of the world's leading research-based pharmaceutical and healthcare companies – is committed to improving the quality of human life by enabling people to do more, feel better and live longer. For company information visit:

(1) Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. FDA Authority Over Tobacco. 2009.

(2) Survey of 311 smokers. Versta Research. June 2010.

(3) GSK data on file.

(4) Fiore MC, Jaen CR, Baker TB, et al. Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence: 2008 Update. Clinical Practice Guideline. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Public Health Service. May 2008.

(5) Silagy et al. Nicotine replacement therapy for smoking cessation (Cochrane Review). In: The Cochrane Library, Issue 1, 2004.  Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons, LTD.


Deborah Bolding

GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare


Sarah Sanders



SOURCE GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare