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.
Flavored Cigarette Ban: Fight Brewing?
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."
A sign that there may be a court battle brewing was the appearance at the news conference of Catherine Lorraine, the new tobacco center's lead lawyer. When pressed on exactly which flavored tobacco products would and would not be included in the ban, Deyton deferred to Lorraine.
"We want to draw attention to the portion of the [law's] definition of cigarette which specifically refers to the appearance of the product and how it is perceived and offered for sale," she said. "We will look at products on an individual basis."
More FDA Actions to Follow Flavored Cigarette Ban
The ban on flavored cigarettes is the first of several strong anti-tobacco actions promised by the FDA:
- By January 2010, FDA will require tobacco manufacturers to submit information about all ingredients and additives in tobacco products.
- By April 2010, The FDA will reissue its 1996 regulations aimed at reducing tobacco use among young people. This will include a ban on the use of tobacco-company logos at sports or entertainment events.
- By July 2010, the FDA will ban the use of the terms "light," "low," and "mild" on tobacco products.
- By July 2010, FDA promises to strengthen warning labels on smokeless tobacco products.
- By October 2012, the FDA says warning labels on cigarettes "will be revised and strengthened."