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Smokers are being warned that all tobacco is deadly no matter how it is packaged.
Asthma and Respiratory Foundation executive director Jane Patterson said smoking tobacco described as `light' and `mild' was not better for health and was not safer to smoke compared with smoking regular tobacco.
In 2005, 44% of the manufactured cigarette brands listed for sale contained at least one description, such as light or mild.
Ms Patterson said the tobacco industry had promoted light and mild cigarettes as `safer' or as an alternative to quitting, when all along it had known that these products were not better for health, or safer to smoke, than regular tobacco.
Recent New Zealand research showed that the tar and nicotine content of light cigarettes was comparable to regular cigarettes, and that light cigarettes might deliver more carbon monoxide than regular cigarettes.
Smokers were also likely to compensate for smoking `light' cigarettes, by inhaling more deeply, holding smoke in the lungs for longer, covering manufactured cigarette ventilation holes with the fingers or mouth, or smoking more frequently.
Smokefree coalition director Mark Peck said a survey of 2709 smokers reported 36% smoked light or mild cigarettes.
This included 27% of Maori and 40% of females surveyed.
Those who reported smoking light and mild were asked why they smoked these types - 23% gave some health-related reason for their choice, and a further five% thought that light or mild cigarettes were `less addictive' and/or `made it easier to quit'.
The NZ Commerce Commission recently warned the tobacco industry to remove the light and mild descriptions from tobacco products, because they mislead customers about the health risks of smoking.