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Tuesday, 9 October, 2001, 14:59 GMT 15:59 UK
Women 'conned' by low tar cigarettes
Woman smoker
Many women smoke low tar brands
Many women smokers mistakenly believe that low tar cigarettes are less harmful to their health, research suggests.

A survey of 780 women who smoke low tar, light or mild cigarettes found almost 40% believe they are doing themselves less damage than they would be if they smoked regular cigarettes.

The figures prove just how dangerous clever marketing can be

Judith Watt
However, the NHS Executive has stressed that all smokers have a one in two chance of dying early from their habit - regardless of the strength of their cigarette of choice.

There is also evidence to suggest that smokers puff harder on low tar brands, reducing any benefit from the lower level of harmful chemicals they contain.

The poll for SmokeFree London, an alliance of health authorities across the capital, found that women are much more likely than men to smoke the low tar cigarettes such as Silk Cut, Marlboro Lights and Camel Lights.

Older smokers

It is a bit like suggesting an alcoholic switches from whisky to wine

Clive Bates
Of the smokers surveyed, 58% of women used lights compared to 50% of men.

For those aged over 55, the figure for women smokers was even higher, with 64% choosing lights compared to 48% of male smokers of the same age.

Judith Watt, of SmokeFree London, said: "These statistics show how successful the tobacco industry has been at conning women into thinking some cigarettes are somehow less harmful than others.

"The figures prove just how dangerous clever marketing can be.

"Women need to understand that smoking lower tar brands is not going to protect them from the huge risk cigarettes pose to their health.

"These cigarettes cause cancer, heart disease and other life-threatening illnesses, just like all other cigarettes."

Clive Bates, director of the anti-smoking charity Action on Smoking and Health, told BBC News Online that the whole concept of low tar cigarettes was a "complete confidence trick" played on the consumer.

"There is evidence that smokers, both men and women, simply adjust their smoking habits to take account of the lower levels of tar.

"It is a bit like suggesting an alcoholic switches from whisky to wine - it won't work."

The use of terms such as low-tar is set to be banned from September 2003 under a European Union directive.

However, its content is being challenged by the tobacco industry.

See also:

18 Mar 99 | Smoking
Low-tar cigarettes 'fool smokers'
16 Jul 01 | Health
'Clean up cigarettes'
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