BETHESDA, Md--An expert advisory committee to the President's
Cancer Panel believes that the method of testing levels of tar,
nicotine, and carbon monoxide in cigarettes is inadequate, as
is the system used by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to inform
consumers about these levels and what they mean to the smoker's
The panel's recommendations to the FTC included listing a range
of levels of these substances directly on cigarette packages,
rather than the current method of listing a single value that
generally appears in advertising only; educating consumers as
to what the numbers mean; and regulating the use of such terms
as "light" and "ultralight."
The National Cancer Institute called the meeting in response to
a request by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif), then-chairman of the
House Subcommittee on Health and the Environment.
Harold P. Freeman, MD, chairman of the President's Cancer Panel
and director of surgery at Harlem Hospital Center, chaired the
meeting, and panel members included experts on environmental carcinogenesis,
human behaviorists, pharmacologists, and epidemiologists, as well
as representatives from the tobacco industry.
The FTC began testing the amount of tar and nicotine in cigarettes
in 1967, and, in 1980, carbon monoxide levels were added to the
standardized machine-based protocol. But problems with the test
method (including the reliance on machine testing and changes
in cigarette design, composition, and engineering) led public
health officials and consumers to question its accuracy.
As a result, in 1983, the FTC announced that it had understated
the amounts of these substances in certain cigarettes, and it
deleted some brands from its official ranking of brands according
to tar, nicotine, and carbon monoxide levels.
Eventually, the FTC closed its cigarette testing laboratory because
of these accuracy problems and because the testing had become
increasingly costly and complex. Since 1987, such testing has
been done by the industry-sponsored Tobacco Institute, with FTC