In 2009, the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act gave the FDA more control over the tobacco industry by restricting sales to minors, forcing companies to put warning labels on packaging, and not allowing terms like “light”, “mild”, or “low” to be used on their products. These words lead customers to believe that products with those words will cause fewer health problems and will encourage fewer people to quit. Studies have shown that these products are not safer than any other and these words are weapons used to lie to their customers. So what words are tobacco companies using to deceive people now? Enter “organic”, “natural”, and “additive-free”.
The USDA (the governing body for the American farming industry) defines “organic” products to be “grown on soil that had no prohibited substances applied for three years prior to harvest”- so no prohibited pesticides. What people seem to realize is that tobacco itself produces nicotine, is a pesticide. On top of being a highly addictive substance, nicotine has been found to cause immune, reproductive, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and respiratory harm.
According to a survey done by Consumer Reports, 2/3 of people believe that products with the label “natural” means that the product has no artificial ingredients, pesticides, or genetically modified organisms…when in reality, the USDA has no official definition for the word. Consumers are basing their health choices on a word that has no definition to protect them. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, a known carcinogen, are also released when any sort of substance is burned- which means smokers of additive free cigarettes are still at risk for cancer.
In March of 2017, the FDA issued a warning to Santa Fe Natural Company, the producer of Natural American Spirit cigarettes, to stop using these new rounds of misleading words. Truth Initiative cited studies that found consumers of Natural American Spirit cigarettes were 22 times more likely to think that their products were safer than other products.