Low-Tar Cigarettes 'Fool Smokers'
BBC News
Many people wrongly believe that smoking low-tar or mild cigarettes are better for their health, says the Health Education Authority (HEA).
A survey shows that 36% of people who smoke low-tar cigarettes believe they are healthier than other brands.
But the HEA says this is misleading and smokers are getting "a raw deal".
Anti-smoking campaigners say the tobacco industry has known for at least 20 years that low-tar cigarettes are a con.
They register as better for smokers in the laboratory, but campaigners say that in real life smokers adapt the way they smoke which means they absorb the same amount or more tar from the cigarettes.
Clive Bates, a spokesman for anti-smoking group ASH, said: "They need to get the same amount of nicotine to get the hit they need so they adjust the way they smoke.
"It is called compensation. They take more puffs or inhale more deeply or smoke more of the length of the cigarette."
They also block the tiny ventilation holes which are designed to draw in air and dilute the tar.
Right to information
ASH and the Imperial Cancer Research Fund, who have updated a report on low-tar cigarettes to coincide with the HEA survey, want the government to stop tobacco firms branding cigarettes as low-tar.
"This gives them the appearance of being the healthy option when this is not true," said Clive Bates.
The Health Education Authority says smokers are getting "a raw deal" and have a right to be better informed.
In the US, where the anti-smoking lobby is very strong, the Federal Trade Commission is evaluating low-tar cigarettes and looking at ways to regulate them.
Anti-smoking campaigners want the UK government to adopt a similar stance.