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FTC rescinds cigarette testing guidance, opens door to new regulation

Washington—The ADA, ADHA and leading health organizations "strongly urge[d]" the Nov. 26 unanimous Federal Trade Commission decision rescinding 42-year cigarette testing guidance characterized by one commissioner as "a smokescreen for tobacco companies' shameful marketing practices."

Another commissioner urged Congress to authorize Food and Drug Administration regulation of the tobacco industry "now that the FTC has removed its apparent imprimatur from the testing method" and called on the scientific community "to redouble its efforts" to develop "meaningful" guidance to consumers on tar and nicotine yields. The ADA supports FDA regulation of tobacco products, which is not currently authorized by Congress.

Tobacco manufacturers' "light" and "low tar" labeling claims were based on an FTC-sanctioned test method the agency now finds "sufficiently flawed to make statements of tar and nicotine yields as measured by the method unlikely to help consumers make informed decisions." In rescinding the guidance, the Commission said advertisers "should no longer use terms suggesting the FTC's endorsement or approval of any specific test method."

The ADA, American Dental Hygienists' Association and 17 other health, consumer, religious and social organizations urged the FTC by letter to rescind the 1966 guidance, saying it allowed for "deceptive marketing" that led smokers to switch "under the false impression such a change would protect their health. The impact of allowing tobacco companies to market in this way has been disastrous for individual smokers and for public health," the coalition of organizations said.

The FTC guidance had also come under fire from some members of Congress and several congressional committees.