Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Cigarettes and Colors

With it being nearly June, the new cigarette ban is upon us. Today for the first time I had to attempt to buy a pack of cigarettes that are no longer labeled with a name. If you are confused, so am I. Apparently, the FDA has stepped in to make sure that people aren’t confused by labels like “Light” and “Ultra Light,” so they are no longer able to be used on packs of cigarettes. (The argument is that people think they are less dangerous. I mean, duh. You are sucking smoke into your lungs – “light” or not, that can’t be good for you.)

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.

“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.
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.

5 comments:

  1. Just back from Walgreens where the above scene was re-enacted almost verbatim when I attempted to order a carton of Virginia Slims menthol lights. The clerk and I finally guessed at Virginia Slims menthol Silver pack. I came home and decided to check here for some answers and this post was the first to pop up. Thanks for explaining that lights and ultra lights are no longer permitted to be printed on the package. And you are right --I don't smoke them because I am deluded into thinking they are somehow healthier...I just prefer the taste of them. Another example of the "Nanny State" prevailing over our right to choose.

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  2. Just read comments above: Nanny State? How About Nazi-ism going to work, through the BS Capitol Hill, Power Hungry, NON-representing the people Dictators the idiots in this Country Elect to Office? IF maybe ALL of the Smokers in this Country took the time to VOTE, We the People wouldn't have the "Lead by MINORITY, SPECIAL INTEREST Groups" pieces of sh*T in our Govt.!!!!!!!! OH hey, don't buy a 2LTR Soda in NYC either. CONTROL the KIND of gun or ammo you can have (if any soon). Make POT legal Everywhere & DUMB DOWN America some more, More than the Idiots running the Educational System in this Country. And, God forbid letting anyone Succeed in this Country because If You do the Gov't. WILL FIND a WAY to punish you for it!!!!!!!

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  3. Just read comments above: Nanny State? How About Nazi-ism going to work, through the BS Capitol Hill, Power Hungry, NON-representing the people Dictators the idiots in this Country Elect to Office? IF maybe ALL of the Smokers in this Country took the time to VOTE, We the People wouldn't have the "Lead by MINORITY, SPECIAL INTEREST Groups" pieces of sh*T in our Govt.!!!!!!!! OH hey, don't buy a 2LTR Soda in NYC either. CONTROL the KIND of gun or ammo you can have (if any soon). Make POT legal Everywhere & DUMB DOWN America some more, More than the Idiots running the Educational System in this Country. And, God forbid letting anyone Succeed in this Country because If You do the Gov't. WILL FIND a WAY to punish you for it!!!!!!!

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  4. I've smoked Virginia Slims 120's since 2000. Up until 2010, they were called "Luxury Lights". I'm still trying to figure that one out; there's nothing light about them! They have the same tar and nic as Benson & Hedges full-flavors (a.k.a., "Premium", as opposed to B&H Luxury, and B&H Deluxe, another new coding!). The gold and silver thing wouldn't be so bad if it applied to all brands; Pall Mall has an orange style, L&M a blue and a light blue style, etc., but at least good old Marlboro reds didn't change. It almost seems that it should be a prerequisite that cashiers at places where cigarettes are sold should be smokers.

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  5. Okay so I'm a little late on this topic, but I have had a discussion about the "light" and "ultra light" and the "Gold" and "silver" confusion. I smoke the VS superslim menthol Gold (use to be called lights) well my smoke shop girl was out of my smokes but said she had some regular menthols (white box with green color stripe design) I told her those are the "Ultra Lights" and she said "no that's the blue strip,what you usually buy" I told her that I can tell the difference when I smoke them. She insisted that since it didn't say "silver or ultra light" that they have to be regular menthol. Ugh, my struggles.... :-)

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