New anti-smoking restrictions went into effect Tuesday, including a ban on labelling cigarettes as “light” “low tar” or “mild.”

New anti-smoking restrictions went into effect Tuesday, including a ban on labelling cigarettes as “light” “low tar” or “mild.”


A bill passed last year gave the Food and Drug Administration the authority to regulate tobacco products and bars the use of these terms in packaging or advertising because they imply that some cigarettes are less hazardous than others. State health officials are warning consumers that some tobacco companies are skirting the law by replacing the banned labelling with color-coded packaging to get the same message across.


“Don’t be fooled, cigarettes are deadly whatever their package color,” State Health Commissioner Dr. Terry Cline said.  “In this situation, no matter how it’s packaged, it is still a cigarette and the research clearly tells us how deadly this product can be for smokers and for those exposed to secondhand smoke.”


Congress adopted the legislation after finding many smokers mistakenly believe cigarettes marketed as “light,” “low tar” or “mild” cause fewer health problems than other cigarettes and make it easier for smokers to quit. Studies have demonstrated that there has been no reduction in health risk from such products, and they may actually increase the risk of tobacco use.


“Since they were first rolled out in the 1970’s, ‘light’ cigarettes have been nothing more than a tobacco industry ploy to keep smokers from quitting,” said Tracey Strader, executive director of the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust. “Light cigarettes are just one example of the deceptive marketing tactics that resulted in 11 tobacco companies being convicted of criminal racketeering in a 2009 federal court ruling.”


The ban affects new shipments of cigarettes, and retailers can sell their existing inventory for another month.


The new regulations also crack down on tobacco marketing and sales to children and require larger and more strongly worded warnings on smokeless tobacco packaging and in advertising. Specifically, the new rules ban all tobacco-brand sponsorships of sports and entertainment events; require stores to place cigarettes and other tobacco products behind the counter, out of reach of children; and prohibit the sale of cigarettes in packs of less than 20. The rules also establish a nationwide prohibition on tobacco sales to children under 18, require photo ID checks for sales to anyone appearing under 27 years of age and provide for tough federal enforcement and penalties against retailers who sell to minors.


The Ardmore Chamber of Commerce Health Improvement Plan initiative will focus on tobacco use prevention during its third quarter which begins in July.


“The effects of tobacco touch each of us in one way or another,” Chamber Vice President Mita Bates said.


“Over 6,000 Oklahomans are killed each year as a result of tobacco. Education is the key to prevention and as a community we need to support efforts aimed at addressing this critical issue.”