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FDA Pulls the Plug on Flavored Cigarettes

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The FDA has banned flavored cigarettes from the market as its first act since being given the authority to monitor and regulate the marketing and manufacturing of tobacco products. It is widely viewed that flavored cigarettes serve as a draw to usher teenagers into smoking, eventually leading to a regular habit with studies showing that almost one in every three teenagers who start smoking become daily smokers.

The New York times reported in its article “Flavors Banned from Cigarettes to Deter Youths” that “In 2004, 17-year-old smokers were more than three times as likely as those over the age of 25 to smoke flavored cigarettes, and they viewed flavored cigarettes as safer.” The ban will hopefully have a butterfly effect in the number of smokers it decreases, as well as the potential millions of dollars in health care costs it may eliminate down the line.

One of the problems with the new legislation is that the law does not clearly denote what constitutes a cigarette.

The most common distinction between a cigar and a cigarette is in the way each is wrapped, with cigars being rolled in tobacco leaves and cigarettes being cased in paper. Officials have been “deliberately vague” in letting the public know whether the ban would apply to flavored small cigars and cigarillos.

In a letter to tobacco manufacturers the agency noted that the ban applied to all “cigarette-like” products, regardless of how they are packaged and/or marketed.

Part of the confusion is due to the strict deadline that the agency had to meet. It only had 90 days to put the ban on flavored cigarettes into effect.

Catherine Lorraine, a lawyer in the agency’s tobacco center, said, “We will be looking at products on an individual basis to determine if it meets that aspect of the legislation.”

For some customers, the ban has been an education on switching from flavored cigarettes to flavored small cigars. Brian M. Mulholland, general manager of Georgetown Tobacco in Washington, said customers are “making the transition.”

The ban does not include menthol cigarettes, as the new law makes specific note that menthol cigarettes are to be researched and dealt with independently. USA Today’s article “FDA: Sweet-flavored cigarettes cannot be sold” cites a study published earlier this year that found that menthol cigarettes “make smoke less harsh, so smokers can take in more nicotine and carbon monoxide per cigarette.” Jonathan Foulds, director of the Tobacco Dependence Program at the Unviersity of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey-School of Public Health, is not surprised that the agency went after flavored cigarettes before menthol cigarettes.

Menthol cigarettes are “far bigger sellers” and would have likely lead to a “pretty major revolt from industry.”