Dec. 9 2016
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Food and Drug Administration today took an important step to protect our nation’s children by initiating enforcement action against four tobacco manufacturers for selling flavored cigarettes that are labeled as little cigars or cigars, which is a violation of the 2009 federal law that gave the FDA authority over tobacco products. The law prohibited candy-and fruit-flavored cigarettes, but a number of tobacco companies made minor changes to these products and then marketed them as cigars to undermine the intent of the law. Today’s action is necessary to prevent tobacco companies from continuing to market flavored products to kids that they label as cigars but are really cigarettes. The tobacco industry has a long history of using flavors to attract kids, and research has shown that flavors play a key role in luring kids into tobacco addiction.
The FDA issued warning letters to four tobacco manufacturers – Swisher International Inc., Cheyenne International LLC, Prime Time International Co. and Southern Cross Tobacco Company Inc. – for selling products in a variety of youth-appealing flavors, including grape, cherry, wild cherry and strawberry. The FDA’s warning letters give manufacturers 15 days to respond. If they fail to take the products off the market, the FDA should take immediate enforcement action, which can include fines, orders to stop selling the product and criminal prosecution. Many of these products have been on the market for years, so the FDA must act to stop their sale without delay.
The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and other public health groups have urged the FDA to enforce the law and prevent the sale of flavored cigarettes labeled as cigars.
Today’s FDA action is also a timely reminder that tobacco companies have a long history of manipulating their products to circumvent measures to reduce tobacco use, especially among kids. It shows why Congress must reject any efforts to weaken FDA authority over tobacco products or to exempt any products, as pending proposals would do. One proposal before Congress would exempt so-called “large and premium cigars,” but defines such cigars so broadly that it could also exempt some cheap, machine-made, flavored cigars that are widely used by kids. It is open invitation to manufacturers to again manipulate their products to qualify for the exemption and continue targeting kids.
Rather than being weakened, the FDA’s tobacco regulations should be strengthened to remove all flavored tobacco products from the market.