Illegal Sales of Flavored Cigarettes Prompt Action by Food and Drug Administration
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Illegal Sales of Flavored Cigarettes Prompt Action by Food and Drug Administration

Four tobacco manufacturers labelled products as cigars or little cigars

December 12, 2016

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued warning letters to four tobacco manufacturers for selling flavored cigarettes labelled as little cigars or cigars in violation of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.

The affected manufacturers include Swisher International, Cheyenne International, Prime Time International, and Southern Cross Tobacco Company. They received letters regarding products under the "Swisher Sweets," "Cheyenne," "Prime Time," and "Criss-Cross" brands that came in several flavors that would appeal to children and teenagers. These flavors included grape, cherry, wild cherry, and strawberry.

"Flavored cigarettes appeal to kids and disguise the bad taste of tobacco, but they are just as addictive as regular tobacco products and have the same harmful health effects," said Mitch Zeller, J.D., director of the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products. "Because about 90 percent of adult daily smokers smoked their first cigarette by the age of 18, continued enforcement of the ban on cigarettes with characterizing flavors is vital to protect future generations from a lifetime of addiction."

The Tobacco Control Act was passed by Congress and then signed by the president in 2009. This law banned cigarettes that contained certain characterizing flavors, e.g. candy or fruit flavors, in an attempt to reduce the number of young people who begin smoking and who become addicted to dangerous tobacco products.

The FDA has determined that the products in question—though labelled as cigars or little cigars—meet the definition of cigarettes in the Tobacco Control Act because they will likely be either offered to or purchased by consumers as cigarettes based on their overall presentation, appearance, and packaging and labelling. The agency also determined that, because they meet the definition of a cigarette, these products are adulterated because they contain either a natural or artificial characterizing flavor, or they are misbranded if they only claim to do so.

The manufacturers are requested to respond to the FDA's letters within 15 working days of receiving them. If they do not obey federal tobacco law, the FDA may take further action, including but not limited to civil money penalties, criminal prosecution, seizure, and/or injunction. The FDA expects that many of the products in question or remain available for purchase at retail establishments while it works with the manufacturers to ensure that the products comply with the law.