FTC rescinds 40-year old rule on cigarette ads

The Federal Trade Commission on Wednesday moved to bar tobacco companies from making claims about the tar and nicotine levels in their cigarettes being tested in accordance with a method approved by the commission. The Commission scrapped a 40-year old rule that allowed tobacco companies to make such claims.

With the scrapping of the rule cigarette advertisers will no longer be able to claim testing of tar and nicotine levels to FTC stipulations

The FTC, has in the past, sought to regulate cigarette advertising and punish companies for misleading consumers with their claims about tar and nicotine levels. However, revoking the rule does not mean the FTC has given up monitoring tobacco advertising.

For 40 years the FTC's approved method testing method was the Cambridge Filter Method. The method tests tar and nicotine levels by ''smoking'' cigarettes on a machine. The method was approved with a view to help consumers obtain standardized information on which to make decisions about brands of cigarettes they smoked

The reason for rescinding the rule appears to be the consensus among the scientific community that machine-based measurements using the Cambridge Filter Method do not provide accurate data about the amounts of tar and nicotine smokers receive from cigarettes. The FTC alluded to this in a recent statement while rescinding the rule.

In a statement, Commissioner Pamela Jones Harbour called on scientists to develop meaningful measures of tar and nicotine. She also called on Congress to pass a bill that would empower the Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco products.

Commissioner Jon Leibowitz said that with the change cigarette advertisers would no longer be able to exploit a government regulation to sell their products.