CBS News Correspondent Elizabeth Kaledin reports on new research that says smokers of low tar and nicotine cigarettes may be getting a lot more of both than they think.
Since 1936 the Federal Trade Commission has used machines to measure the amount of tar and nicotine in every brand of cigarette on the market.
The smoke passes through a small filter, and the filter is analyzed. The tobacco companies can then make advertising claims based on the FTC findings.
But researchers at the American Health Foundation who've spent five years studying the FTC's standards have discovered they don't measure up.
"We found that people get approximately twice as much tar and nicotine from the cigarette compared to the listings of the same cigarette in the FTC report," says Steven Stellman of the American Health Foundation.
The main problem researchers found is that the machine and people smoke completely differently. The machine takes one puff per minute; the average person takes about two to three deeper puffs in the same amount of time, basically doubling the amount of smoke inhaled.
That means the claim that cigarettes are low or medium in tar and nicotine, according to FTC standards, may be misleading to consumers. An estimated 80 percent of the market these days has this claim.
"It is not the product itself which determines exposure," says Mirjana Djordjevic, author of the study. "It is the way you smoke your cigarettes which determines this exposure to nicotine and tar and carcinogens."
Cigarette manufacturer Brown and Williamson says its claims are not misleading because regardless of how you smoke, it's common sense that anything lower in tar and nicotine is healthier.
"The actual tar and FTC numbers are printed on ads. Even if people are still getting slightly greater amounts of tar, they're still getting less tar from low-tar cigarettes than they would from mild- or full-flavored cigarettes," says Sharon Boyce of Brown and Williamson.
Despite the advent of low-tar and nicotine cigarettes, lung cancer rates have continued to rise. The FTC is working on ways to change its system.