The tobacco industry is accused today of marketing low-tar cigarettes as healthy alternatives to standard cigarettes, despite knowing they are just as dangerous.

The tobacco industry is accused today of marketing low-tar cigarettes as healthy alternatives to standard cigarettes, despite knowing they are just as dangerous.

Internal industry documents from the 1970s also show that filter cigarettes were described as "an effective advertising gimmick", "merely cosmetic" and offering the "image of reassurance", according to an article in Tobacco Control.

Some filter cigarettes, including menthol versions, even delivered more tar and nicotine than unfiltered cigarettes.

Dr Richard Pollay, and a team from the faculty of commerce and business administration, University of British Columbia, analysed trade sources and internal US tobacco company documents to chart the industry's tactics. Companies chose brand names to convey a healthy image, such as "Merit", "Life", "True" and "Light". British American Tobacco wrote of its marketing: "All work in this area should be directed towards providing consumer reassurance about cigarettes and the smoking habit by claimed low deliveries, by the perception of low deliveries and by the perception of mildness."

Tobacco Control also reveals how the cinema helped to promote cigarettes. From 1978 to 1988, Philip Morris placed its products in more than 191 films, despite a voluntarily Hollywood agreement to curb indirect advertising. In 1982, the producers of a Bond film, Never Say Never Again, agreed to Sean Connery and other lead actorssmoking Winston and Camel cigarettes for $10,000. Sylvester Stallone agreed to use Brown & Williamson cigarettes in five films for $500,000.

The journal also claims tobacco firms sold cigarettes with defective filters for many years. Despite knowing the filters might release harmful materials during smoking, the findings were not made public.

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