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Stanford University School of Medicine

False advertising suggests that “natural” cigarettes are safer, new research shows

cigarette-1371975_1920As the percentage of Americans who smoke continues to drop (currently about 15 percent from a high of 44 percent in the 1950s), the tobacco industry has had to hunt for new ways to market cigarettes. One strategy that seems effective is convincing consumers that certain types of cigarettes are safer than others, even if that is not true.

Past efforts have misleadingly promoted filtered cigarettes and "light" cigarettes as safer cigarettes. Now, says a team of Stanford researchers, the tobacco industry is marketing the idea that "organic" or "natural" cigarettes are safer to smoke.

In an article for the American Journal of Public Health, three Stanford researchers report that smokers are buying the "safer" sales pitch. Smokers of Natural American Spirit cigarettes, for example, are 22 times more likely than smokers of other brands to believe that their cigarettes are safer, the researchers say.

Anna Epperson, PhD, postdoctoral scholar; Lisa Henriksen, PhD, senior research scholar; and Judith Prochaska, PhD, associate professor of medicine, concluded:

Research indicates that the use of positive health-oriented terms such as 'natural,' '100% additive-free,' and 'organic' convey a market advantage and allay consumers' health concerns. The strategy has been successful for Natural American Spirit, with notable growth in market share despite a higher price point and declines in the number of smokers in the United States.

Such sales strategies help explain why cigarette smoking has already killed more than 10 times as many Americans as have all the wars ever fought by the United States.

Previously: False advertising? "Natural" cigarettes are bad for nature, Stanford researchers sayWhat you need to know about e-cigarettesEverything adolescents should know about the dangers of tobaccoGroup urges ban on menthol-flavored tobacco, which is marketed to African Americans
Photo by joyce_laerte

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