This article from the New York Times back in February talks about it, and describes the changes:
Come June, under the new federal tobacco law, cigarette companies will no longer be allowed to use words like “light” or “mild” on packages to imply that some cigarettes are safer than others.Okay, so I smoke Virginia Slims Menthol Ultra Lights. It’s a mouthful as it is. The old pack had “Virginia Slims” and then below that “Ultra Lights” on the front, with a light green stripe along the side. Easy to identify. The new pack has all the same coloring, but simply says “Virginia Slims” on the front of the box. Like every other pack of Virginia Slims. Along the top of the box it says “Virginia Slims Menthol Silver Pack.” This, along with the light green stripe on the side, is the only identifier that these are the Ultra Light cigarettes I like to smoke. Silver is apparently now the substitute for “Ultra Lights.” (Gold substitutes for Lights.) But it doesn’t say “Silver” on the front of the box, so any store employee trying to find the pack I want is going to encounter some difficulties. I can see it now:
Me: A pack of what used to be called Virginia Slim Menthol Ultra Lights. They have a light green stripe.
Store Person: (stands in front of the Virginia Slims section, scanning the boxes, all of which say simply “Virginia Slims” on the front)
Me: The light green. No, the other light green. No, lighter. They say “Silver” on the top of the box.
Store Person: (starts pulling out the boxes in an attempt to view the top of the box)
Me: To your right, your right, no too far. There! Right there!
Store Person: I don’t understand how I’m supposed to find this when there is no label.
The last statement is what the Walgreen’s employee said to me today. And I agree. Without ways of distinguishing the flavors of cigarettes, we are left without labels. (Light and Ultra Light are flavors to me. Therer is a world of difference between them and a regular.) At minimum, Virginia Slims needs to start writing “Silver” on the front of the box. But who knows, maybe they aren’t allowed? It seems the FDA has problems with the color method also:
And anticipating the new rules, R.J. Reynolds has already changed Salem Ultra Lights, which are sold in a silver box, to Silver Box.What will I do if "Silver" or other color coding goes away? Play the cigarette lottery? Tell the store employee to just pick one and hope it's correct? So, the government wants to leave cigarette companies with no manner at all in which to allow their customers to find their brand of cigarettes. Awesome.
“They’re circumventing the law,” said Gregory N. Connolly, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health. “They’re using color coding to perpetuate one of the biggest public health myths into the next century.”
While Congress specifically banned some terms, including “low” and “mild” — present on about half the packages of cigarettes sold in the United States — it also gave the F.D.A. authority to act against “similar descriptors” that could mislead consumers to think certain products were less risky.
Last month, the agency published a notice that it could take action against colors like silver or pastels, as well as additional words like “silver,” “smooth” and “natural,” which some companies are still planning to use on cigarette packages. The notice sought public and industry comments, which are due Friday.