Tobacco firms fight ‘lights’ Euro directive

Cigarette brands such as Marlboro Lights and Silk Cut Extra Mild could be consigned to history, unless tobacco manufacturers can successfully resist attempts to implement the latest European Union directive covering the marketing of tobacco products.

One section of the directive, on tobacco product regulation, states that: “Text, names, trade marks and figurative or other signs” that could imply that a particular product is less harmful than another, will be banned.

This clause must be made law by EU member states by September 30, 2003. However, manufacturers are mounting legal challenges – Imperial Tobacco and BAT will present their arguments to the European Court of Justice in Strasbourg next week.

A spokesman for Philip Morris Europe (PM) says the company feels that “lights” describes the taste: “Consumers may once have believed that ‘light’ or ‘mild’ meant cigarettes were less harmful, but now they know the dangers of smoking.” He adds that PM is lobbying the Government to allow it to continue to use such descriptors, as long as it is clear that no health claims are intended.

Clive Bates, director of UK lobby group Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), disagrees: “Evidence shows that many smokers still think ‘light’ means lower in tar and nicotine, and less dangerous than ‘fuller-flavoured’ products. That simply isn’t true.”

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