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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Ahead of today's effective date whereby certain flavored tobacco products will become illegal under new regulations, several of the nation's tobacco companies issued statements to their retailers and wholesalers, reassuring them of the legal status of their products.
This latest regulation to ban tobacco products came as part of the law that passed earlier this year and gave the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulatory authority over the tobacco industry. The FDA last week issued a letter to the tobacco industry alerting them of the ban on cigarettes with ingredients or additives that impart "certain characterizing flavors" in its smoke or the cigarette, such as "strawberry, grape, orange, clove, cinnamon, pineapple, vanilla, coconut, licorice, cocoa, chocolate, cherry or coffee," as well as herb and spice flavors.
It does not include menthol in the ban, but does state the ban applies to "a cigarette or any of its component parts (including the tobacco, filter or paper)," as well as "all tobacco products that meet the definition of a 'cigarette' in section 900(3) of the act even if they are not labeled as 'cigarettes' or are labeled as cigars or as some other product," the letter states.
The nation's largest tobacco manufacturer, Altria Group, issued a statement saying that the ban "does not affect any of Philip Morris USA's cigarettes, cigarette tobacco and smokeless tobacco products; U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co.'s smokeless tobacco products; or John Middleton's cigars and pipe tobacco products," and all of the company's products would remain for sale after the Sept. 22 deadline.
The company noted cigarettes may continue to contain additives and ingredients that do not impart "characterizing flavors," and the characterizing flavor ban is limited to cigarettes and cigarette tobacco, such as roll-your-own tobacco, as defined in the statute.
The second-largest tobacco company in the U.S., R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., also issued a statement that the ban does not apply to any of its current portfolio of cigarette products, all of which "are in compliance … and will remain available."
Meanwhile, other tobacco companies responded to the ambiguity of the FDA letter regarding the products that may be included in the ban. Phillips & King International and Kretek International importers of the Djarum and Dream cigarette brands, issued two statements alerting retailers to remove the products from store shelves as of the end of the day Monday, Sept. 21, to avoid potential penalties including fines and/or seizure of product. Noting the need for clarification regarding the FDA's interpretation of "cigarette" and "cigar" under the Federal Cigarette Labeling Act, the companies said "Prudent action is the safe course until we have clarification … Therefore we are suspending sales of Djarum clove cigars from our warehouse until we receive further guidelines from the FDA."
The companies also recommended temporary suspension of wholesale and retail sales of Djarum clove cigars until further notice.
Republic Tobacco, maker of roll-your-own cigarette tobacco and papers, issued a statement noting its initial analysis concluded the ban does not "preclude the sale of separately sold flavored cigarette paper booklets," and that it has written to the FDA seeking clarification.
And Commonwealth Brands issued a similar statement, saying the "characterizing flavor" ban applies to cigarettes only as defined by the Tobacco Control Act, and since cigarette papers sold separately do not meet the definition of a cigarette under the act, they can continue to be sold as individual sales units. The company added that none of Commonwealth's roll-your-own tobacco blends have a "characterizing flavor" that would make them illegal under the ban.
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