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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The House Committee on Energy and Commerce is investigating two tobacco distributors, following accusations from public health groups that they are averting the recently enacted ban on flavored cigarettes by marketing the products as flavored cigars, according to a report by The Associated Press.
Kretek International Inc., based in California, and Cheyenne International LLC, based in North Carolina, received letters from the committee's Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif, asking the companies to provide information on how they marketed their "little cigar" products since Sept. 22 -- the day the flavor ban on cigarettes went into effect -- along with sales figures, according to the report.
Cheyenne has made filtered cigars for several years with fruit and other flavors including whiskey and rum. Despite the accusations, CEO Bill Greiwe said in the report the company has never made flavored cigarettes other than menthol, and that the allegations made by the public health groups are "completely false" and "unsubstantiated."
Kretek International, distributor of clove-flavored tobacco products, had previously sold flavored cigarettes, which were banned last month. It recently released flavored cigars that are close in size to a cigarette, but are wrapped in tobacco leaves rather than paper, and contain cigar tobacco.
Kretek also filed last month a request for declaratory judgment against the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), following what it claimed was the FDA's intention to exceed its authority to regulate flavored cigarettes by banning other tobacco products as well.
Cigars are not covered by the FDA's new authority, Kretek said in a statement last month, adding the purpose of the suit is to prevent the FDA from taking action against Kretek's Djarum cigar products.
The Djarum cigars are the latest products in the line. In 2007, the current Djarum cigars were classified by the Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) as cigars under the code of federal regulations, and an advanced ruling was issued, stating they met the legal test as a cigar product, according to Kretek.
"We have made every effort to meet the letter and spirit of the law, and to ensure that these products are displayed in the cigar section of the tobacco counter," John Geoghegan of Kretek said in a statement. "The Djarum product is clearly labeled as a cigar in at least seven places on the pack, in addition to clear merchandising messaging."
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