Tobacco Companies Change Cigarette Packaging — Barely — to Comply with Law

The packaging is almost exactly the same, but Philip Morris' Marlboro Lights brand is no more: with terms like “light” and “mild” now banned by law from tobacco marketing, the cigarettes are now being called “Marlboro Gold.”

The New York Times reported Feb. 18 that critics condemned tobacco companies for flouting the spirit, if not the letter, of the law. “They're using color coding to perpetuate one of the biggest public health myths into the next century,” said Gregory N. Connolly of the Harvard School of Public Health.

Other examples include R.J. Reynolds decision to relabel Salem Ultra Lights to Salem Silver Box, and Marlboro Ultra Lights transformation into Marlboro Silver.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is investigating the companies' use of color in marketing their products. Tobacco company officials contend that banning certain colors would be unconstitutional.

The law giving the FDA power to regulate tobacco products only bans the use of terms like light and mild; it does not bar companies from making so-called 'light' cigarettes.

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