Is it ok to smoke mild or light cigarettes?

Until recently, low-tar cigarettes were labeled mild, light or ultra. They showed lower readings for tar and nicotine on the packet compared to regular (full strength) cigarettes. However, research shows that light cigarettes are just as harmful as the regular type. It's important not to be misled by the tar readings listed on the side of light cigarette packets.

The facts

The figure that's given is usually a lot lower compared to normal cigarettes, but this is based on tests done with a machine. Real people smoke light brands very differently to regular cigarettes, meaning that the tar reading doesn't actually represent what you breathe in.
If you smoke light cigarettes you probably take more puffs, inhale more smoke, and smoke more of the cigarette. You may not even be aware of doing this, it's a way of trying to satisfy your body's nicotine craving and get a more satisfying hit, because light cigarettes taste weaker.
Low tar cigarettes have tiny holes in the filter, which allows more air to mix with the smoke so it isn't as harsh. Because light cigarettes are generally smoked more intensively, you end up inhaling the same amount of tar and nicotine as with regular cigarettes. Some of the filter holes are also blocked as you hold the cigarette, allowing less air to dilute the smoke and therefore the chemicals.
There are no health benefits of smoking light cigarettes; the only way to avoid the dangers of smoking is to give up all together. Don't start smoking light cigarettes as a way to ease you into quitting, as you'll carry on inhaling the same amount of highly addictive nicotine. Light cigarettes are just as addictive as the regular type.

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Quitting smoking will improve your bank balance and your appearance, as well lowering your risk of serious smoking related diseases such as lung cancer, heart disease and stroke. The EU banned the terms 'light' and 'mild' on cigarette packets from September 2003. Many of these labels have now been removed altogether, or replaced with names such as fine, silver or white, so that they don't sound like a safer option.

Source: NHS Direct