Sept. 22, 2009 -- As of today, it's illegal in the U.S. to buy or sell most flavored cigarettes.
However, the FDA ban does not include the most popular cigarette flavor: menthol. It does cover every other conceivable flavor, including candy, spice, herb, cola, fruit, and coffee flavors.
The flavored-cigarette ban is the FDA's first major anti-tobacco action since President Barack Obama signed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act in June. The law gives the FDA the power to regulate tobacco products.
The law doesn't let FDA ban cigarettes entirely. But Congress has stated that flavors make cigarettes more appealing to youth and increase their exposure to toxic substances.
As a result, the FDA now rules that flavorings designed to appeal to youths "are considered adulterated."
"Flavored cigarettes attract and allure kids into addiction," Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary Howard Koh, MD, MPH, said at a news conference held to announce the ban.
Today's announcement gave center stage to Lawrence R. Deyton (pronounced DEE-ton), MD, who last week was named director of the FDA's new Center for Tobacco Products.
"Each day in the U.S., 3,600 young people between ages 12 and 17 initiate cigarette smoking and 1,100 young people become daily cigarette smokers," Deyton said at the news conference. "Flavors make cigarettes and other tobacco products more appealing to youth. Studies show 17-year-old smokers are three times as likely to use these products as are those over 25."
Deyton quoted at length from tobacco-industry memos making it clear that tobacco companies deliberately created the products in order to attract young people to cigarette smoking.
"As of today, manufacturers should no longer make, distributors should no longer distribute, importers should no longer import, and retailers should no longer sell these products," Deyton said. He promised that FDA would energetically enforce the ban, and urged citizens to help by importing any sale of flavored cigarettes to the agency.
An attempt by the tobacco industry to get around the ban by selling flavored tobacco products as cigars rather than as cigarettes is made more difficult by the new law, which defines a cigarette as any rolled tobacco product -- regardless of the wrapper -- "likely to be offered for purchase to consumers as a cigarette."