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FDA looks to ban flavored tobacco

FDA Looks to Ban Flavored Cigars and Menthol Cigarettes

November 20th, 2018

This week the U.S. Food & Drug Administration announced its new regulations with regard to the e-cigarette and vaping industries. Yet, as lamentable as the regulations are for the aforementioned non-tobacco products, even more drastic measures were proposed for flavored cigars and menthol cigarettes.

A statement released by FDA Commissioner, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, noted the usage of e-cigarettes and vapes by young people, and indicated that the agency was proposing a ban on both products.

“Finally, to ensure that we’re taking a comprehensive approach, we must evaluate our regulatory approach to flavored cigars. Flavors are added to cigars and other tobacco products for various reasons, such as reducing the harshness, bitterness and astringency of tobacco products during inhalation and to soothe irritation during use. Research shows that, compared to adults (25 or older) who smoke cigars, a higher proportion of youth who smoke cigars use flavored cigars.”

The data also indicated that eliminating flavors from cigars would deter young people from smoking cigars.

“Accordingly, I am also outlining policy goals to address the presence of flavors in cigars – including those that were subject to the compliance policy for newly deemed products, and those that were ‘grandfathered.'”

Even though Mr. Gottlieb’s statement isn’t binding, it will, no doubt, invite a harsh reaction by the tobacco industry. Even so, it is expected to be at least two years before such a ban would go into effect. Moreover, the agency was not clear with regard to exempting the larger, higher-priced, premium quality flavored cigars.

Cigars like ACID by Drew Estate and JAVA by Rocky Patel are considered to be among the bestselling flavored premium cigars in the industry. Additionally, companies like Miami Cigar & Co., who make the flavored Tatiana premium selection, General Cigar Co., who make CAO Flavours, and Oliva, who make Nub Café, among others, also have a stake in the flavored cigar market, albeit a small one. It’s companies like Swisher Intl. (Swisher Sweets), Altria (Black & Mild), Imperial (Dutch Masters), and Swedish Match (White Owl), who are much more heavily invested in both flavored cigars and menthol cigarettes.

During the past several years the FDA has made a number of attempts to regulate flavored cigars differently than premium cigars. In 2014, the agency proposed a possible option to exempt “premium cigars” with the requirement that premiums not include what they called, “characterizing flavors.” Moreover, the FDA’s proposed rules for flavored cigars were so severe they were struck down by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) As a result, the status quo remains unchanged, in that, flavored and non-flavored cigars currently continue to share the same regulations.

The FDA is proposing that e-cigarettes and vaping products only be sold in locations that don’t allow customers to be under the age of 18. It’s also proposing that flavored liquids not be displayed, and as for online sales of e-cigarettes, the agency is proposing even tougher restrictions. To that end, Juul, a leading maker of e-cigarettes has already announced that they have already voluntarily implemented many of the FDA’s proposals.