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Myth Buster: Are ‘Light’ Cigarettes Better for You?

Myth: Low-tar “light” cigarettes aren’t as harmful as regular cigarettes.

Facts: The use of light cigarettes increases dramatically as age, education and income levels increase, experts say. You might think those statistics suggest that informed people know what’s best for them, but in fact, people who smoke light cigarettes aren’t protecting themselves. The Office of the Surgeon General has concluded that low-tar or low-nicotine cigarettes are not appreciably safer than regular cigarettes. Smoking any kind of tobacco can cause lung cancer, stroke and heart disease. “There is no safe cigarette, whether it’s called ‘light,’ ‘ultra-light’ or any other name,” says Matthew McKenna, M.D., director of the Office on Smoking and Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. “The science is clear: The only way to avoid the health hazards of smoking is to quit completely or to never start.”

Barbara Basler is a senior editor at AARP Bulletin Today.

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