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Commission Issues Warning

25 Sep 2008.

New Zealand’s Commerce Commission has issued warnings to three major tobacco companies that the use of the terms ‘light’ and ‘mild’ risked breaching the Fair Trading Act.

The Commerce Commission has been investigating whether the use of the descriptors ‘light’ and ‘mild’ on cigarettes could be potentially misleading under the Fair Trading Act.

“Our concern with these descriptors is that consumers may believe they are exposing themselves to less harm if they smoke these cigarettes, as compared to regular-strength cigarettes,” says Adrian Sparrow, director of the Commerce Commission of Fair Trading. “Whilst technical machine testing of these products might show them to have a lower level of toxicants, our investigations suggest that the impact of human behaviour results in there being little difference between the intake of toxicants from these products and their regular-strength counterparts.

During the investigation, British American Tobacco and Imperial Tobacco gave the commission assurances that they would remove the descriptors from their packaging. Philip Morris has planned to do the same by 17 October.

Meanwhile, the parliamentary health select committee has recommended the banning of tobacco and cigarette displays in shops. The committee’s report, issued on 29 September, found that displays could “create a false impression of the safety, social acceptability, and prevalence of tobacco use“. (pi)

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