New Industry Watch article on cigarette filter innovation and tobacco company marketing

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In an Industry Watch article for the journal Tobacco Control, Dr Karen Evans-Reeves, Kathrin Lauber and Dr Rosemary Hiscock from the University of Bath’s Tobacco Control Research Group (TCRG) explore how, following the implementation of packaging and flavouring regulations in the UK, tobacco companies have exploited loopholes in the legislation and continued their attempts to differentiate their products from one another by innovating and marketing cigarette filters.

The article examines cigarette adverts in retail publications and documents filter innovations and how they are being marketed. The research finds that despite offering no health protection from tobacco smoke, new filters are being produced and advertised in ways which imply health benefits. For example, tube filters, have a hollowed or recessed section of filter at the mouth end which distances the discoloured end of the filter from the smokers’ lips. Marketing slogans include ‘bright air filter’, ‘experience our ultimate smooth’, which has connotations of a cleaner, healthier experience. Another example reveals that cigarettes that previously featured flavour capsules in their filters have been redesigned to have crush filters which mimic their predecessor’s flavour experience. Marketing slogans include ‘cool filter’, ‘for former crushball smokers’. Once again, this adaptation by the tobacco industry is contrary to the spirit of the legislation which bans characterising flavours in cigarettes.

These findings sit within the broader context of the environmental damage of disposed cigarette filters. Cigarette filters are amongst the ten most common plastics in the world’s oceans and leach toxic substances into the environment.

The findings of the article suggest that current legislation does not go far enough. To protect current and future smokers from the inaccurate perception that filters offer any protection from tobacco smoke, and to protect the environment from the severe detrimental impact of disposed cigarette filters, cigarette filters should be banned altogether.

Evans-Reeves, K. Lauber, R. Hiscock, The ‘filter fraud’ persists: the tobacco industry is still using filters to suggest lower health risks while destroying the environment, Tobacco Control, 2021, doi:10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2020-056245

For more information see the TobaccoTactics page on Cigarette Filters

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