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MOORPARK, Calif. – Kretek International's Djarum Clove Cigars, introduced in January 2009 after two-and-a-half years of development, testing and government approvals, are not covered under the FDA's (Food and Drug Administration) new ban on flavored cigarettes.
According to the company, Kretek's 12-pack, filtered clove cigars were evaluated and analyzed in 2007 and again in 2008 by the Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau of the Treasury Department, and an advanced ruling stating that they met the legal standard as a cigar product was issued.
The new FDA law prohibits cigarettes with a characterizing flavor other than tobacco or menthol, but cigars are not covered by the new FDA ban. During development, Kretek and Indonesian manufacturer Djarum were especially careful to avoid the likelihood that the new product would be sold as or purchased as a cigarette, a company spokesman told CSNews Online.
Djarum's cigars are made with an HTL wrapper, different than cigarettes, air-cured cigar tobacco weighing more than 3 pounds per thousand sticks, and are packaged in 12-packs, not 20-packs like cigarettes are. The word 'CIGAR' appears on the package at least seven times, with a cigar excise tax structure and cigar label warnings. The carton and packs are designed so they won't fit in a standard cigarette plan-o-gram and the new Djarum merchandising racks identify them as cigars.
The company maintains that the difference between cigarettes and cigars has been clearly defined by standing law for more than 30 years and that this longstanding legal distinction between cigarettes and cigars was included as part of the new FDA law.
The FDA ban on flavored cigarettes was the agency's first act under a law giving it the power to oversee tobacco and it has caused confusion throughout the industry. According to The Wall Street Journal, Kretek filed suit against the FDA when the agency issued a letter saying the new law applied to anything that fits a cigarette's profile, even if it's labeled a "cigar." The suit seeks a permanent injunction preventing the FDA from enforcing the flavor ban on these cigar products.
Kretek estimates the number of clove cigarette users at about 1.2 million, averaging 5.2 smokes a week -- less than a tenth of 1 percent of U.S. cigarette consumption. A University of Minnesota study in 2006 actually found a 40 percent drop in 12th grade clove cigarette smokers since 2001.