The Facts
Tobacco use is responsible for 430,000 yearly deaths in America-which makes it the primary cause of premature and preventable fatalities, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The U.S. also expends almost $200 billion yearly on medical expenses and lost productivity as a result of tobacco-related illnesses. Meanwhile, tobacco manufacturers continue to portray their products as harmless, and some have even alleged that tobacco consumption has health benefits.

While these health benefits cannot be verified, there is irrefutable proof of the far-reaching health detriments of tobacco, which is responsible for more deaths per year than the combined fatalities of HIV, alcohol and illegal drug use, suicides, car accidents and murders. The CDC estimates that tobacco consumption accounts for 80 to 90 percent of all lung cancer deaths, causes an assortment of other cancers, chronic lung disease, and increases the risk of developing coronary heart disease and stroke.

Misinformative Messages
Compounding these health issues is the fact that cigarettes are highly addictive. Smoke Free California states "nicotine addiction has been found to be as strong as heroin and cocaine addiction." Despite a mountain of evidence identifying cigarettes as lethal poison, tobacco manufacturers initiated marketing campaigns to promote product variations as "mild," " light," "low," and a host of other titles designed to create the false perception that these cigarettes contained significantly lower amounts of toxins and were somehow less dangerous than "regular" cigarettes.

As a result, many consumers who were rightfully concerned about their health and actively trying to stop smoking were instead deceived into thinking that switching to these modified versions would allow them to continue smoking without experiencing the detrimental effects associated with regular cigarettes. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration put a halt to this deceptive advertising by demanding the removal of these misleading labels. However, tobacco companies continue to mislead the public with crafty packaging designed to dispel concerns, convert new consumers and entice those either actively involved in or contemplating a smoking cessation plan.

Color-Coded Loophole
Although tobacco companies can no longer label their products as "light," "mild" or "low" cigarettes, they have found a way to circumvent the government's directive by using color-coded packaging. According to Gregory Connolly, a Public Health professor at Harvard University, dark colors like red and green are used for regular and menthol cigarettes; light green, blue and gold indicate light cigarettes; and ultra lights are designated by silver and orange colors. For example, cigarettes that were previously packaged in a silver box and labeled, "Ultra Light," have retained the silver packaging but are now called, "Silver Box."

Consumers who routinely purchase cigarettes can immediately recognize their favorite brands by the color-coding, and they still associate these colors with the labels they grew accustomed to. And by using color-coded packaging, tobacco companies are evading the government's directive by continuing to imply that some cigarettes are lighter and milder and thus less potent or harmful--than others.

Double Deception
In an article by Rita Rubin in USA Today, one tobacco official asserted that the different designations ensure consumers can select the product that appeals to their taste buds, and stated that adult smokers know there is no such thing as a "safe" cigarette. However, studies by the Roswell Park Cancer Center reveal that over half of the smoking populace believe that consuming full-flavored or high-tar cigarettes doubles their health risk.

However, the false sense of security generated by deceptive packaging may put health-conscious smokers at greater risk. Professor Gregory Connolly of Harvard warns that light cigarettes have a unique taste because of a different filtering process and the inclusion of additional ingredients. People who smoke these types of cigarettes tend to inhale more smoke to meet their craving for nicotine, and they also smoke a larger quantity of cigarettes, which actually puts them in greater danger of developing health problems.

Don't be fooled by the deceptive packaging tactics of the tobacco industry. A study by the European Journal of Public Health found that consumers think packages designed as "silver," "gold" or "smooth" are less addictive, making it easier for them to quit smoking. However, regardless of the labels and colors manufacturers use, all cigarettes are addictive, toxic and costly. A staggering $12 billion a year is spent on marketing cigarettes in the United States, and consumers respond with $83 billion in yearly purchases. You can help stop the tobacco industry's return on investment by refusing to consume their poisonous products.