QUEBEC (AP) _ The Canadian Health Minister said Monday he will ban tobacco companies from selling cigarettes marketed under the labels light or mild, saying they mislead the public into a ``false sense of security.''

Allan Rock made the announcement at the annual meeting of the Canadian Medical Association in Quebec City.

He said he expected the tobacco industry to challenge the legislation, which could be introduced this fall.

``Let them argue for their right to deceive,'' Rock told about 500 members of the association. ``They've continued to mislead the public for decades. Labeling cigarettes as `light' and `mild' offers smokers a false sense of security.''

Rock said the so-called light or mild cigarettes are just as ``lethal'' as regular cigarettes.

Michel Descoteaux, of Imperial Tobacco Canada, has said the terms light and ultra-light are not misleading because they accurately describe comparative tar levels.

But documents obtained through court proceedings in recent years show that the industry has long been aware that low-tar cigarettes may keep smokers from quitting.

``We have evidence of virtually no quitting among smokers of these brands,'' says a 1978 document.

``There are indications that the advent of ultra low tar cigarettes has actually retained some potential smokers in the cigarette market by offering them a viable alternative,'' it added.

According to CTV television, more than half of Canada's 6 million smokers choose light or mild cigarettes.

Canada's already strict rules on smoking mean a ban on tobacco advertisements and cigarette packages are required to carry graphic health warning labels.

The full color graphics that occupy 50 percent of the front panel of the packages illustrate smoking-related diseases and situations. They also display health information messages on diseases caused by tobacco use or tips on quitting smoking which are printed on the inside slider or leaflet.

The regulations on the images became law in June 2000, making Canada the first country in the world to implement such strong labeling and reporting measures.