The filter fraud: debunking the myth of "Safer" as a key new strategy of tobacco control
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University of Alabama, Center for the Study of Tobacco and Society, United States of America
San Diego State University, Biostatistics and Epidemiology, United States of America
Publication date: 2018-03-01
Tob. Induc. Dis. 2018;16(Suppl 1):A81
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Background and challenges to implementation:
Although efforts have been made to eliminate the use of misleading descriptors such as "low-tar", "lights" and "mild" from cigarette marketing, the elimination of the cellulose acetate filter-which is on 95% of cigarettes and which does not confer any reduced health risks to smokers--has been largely overlooked as a tobacco control strategy. While manufacturers have avoided making explicit health claims for filtered cigarettes (thus putting the burden of blame on consumers), there is an urgent need for improved education of smokers, health professionals, and regulatory agencies alike that filtered cigarettes are no less lethal than non-filtered ones. The 2014 Surgeon General's Report on the Health Consequences of Smoking and the 2001 NCI Monograph 13 report that the near-universal adoption by smokers of filtered cigarettes since their introduction in the 1950s has not reduced these consumers' risks for cancer and other diseases.

Intervention or response:
A review of cigarette marketing practices reveals the deception perpetrated by tobacco companies about filters that has allayed consumers' concerns about the adverse health effects of smoking and has consequently made cigarettes more acceptable-and addictive-for new and continuing smokers. This presentation summarizes current filter research plus six decades of cigarette advertisements, tobacco industry documents and trade journals that have perpetuated the filter fraud.

Results and lessons learnt:
This review further explodes the myth that filtered cigarettes are safer than unfiltered brands and provides evidence that filters should be eliminated from both cigarette manufacture and from the environment into which these non-biodegradable products are discarded.

Conclusions and key recommendations:
Additional research on the potential health and environmental benefits of removing filters from the marketplace should be conducted, aimed at stricter product regulation. Meanwhile, rather than solely continuing to educate the public about the dangers of smoking, public health professionals and clinicians need to better communicate the message that filtered cigarettes do not confer any health protection whatsoever.

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