John Middleton challenges ban on single cigar sales..

January 1, 2009 - John Middleton Co., operating company of Altria Group Inc., joined fellow cigar manufacturers Altadis U.S.A. Inc., Swedish Match North America Inc. and Swisher International, Inc., Maryland distributor Century Distributors Inc., and the Cigar Association of America Inc. in asking a Maryland circuit court to overturn a recently enacted Prince George County’s law that bans the sale of single cigars.

The law is aimed primarily at small cigars sold individually at convenience stores and gas stations. Such cigars are often marketed in youth-friendly flavors such as cherry, apple and lime and are sold for as little as 80 cents to $1.

Kathleen Dachille, Director of the Center for Tobacco Regulation at the University of School of Law: Studies have shown that the cigars have become increasingly popular among young people in predominantly black communities and can be a gateway to a lifelong cigarette habit. Many young people smoke cigars for the tobacco, but they can also be easily hollowed out and filled with marijuana. She said requiring that cigars be sold in packs of five will raise their price enough to deter some young people, who will also balk at having to keep and store the packs. If we can prevent children in Prince George's County from initiating smoking with a very popular attraction, we may prevent a tobacco user from growing up.

Black & Mild is the most popular brand of cigars for smokers 12 and older. Nearly a quarter of 18- to 24-year-old blacks in the Baltimore smoke B&M cigars.

Dachille and Quinton who works with the Suitland-based Substance Abuse Treatment Education Prevention Network, said they will again support a state law when the legislature meets in January 2009.

Dachille said she thinks that Prince George's is the only jurisdiction in the nation to ban the sale of single cigars, but New York City and Rhode Island are considering similar measures. A similar law in Philadelphia was struck down by a court for other provisions. Baltimore is also considering new health regulations that would have the same effect, and a District law targets cigar products, such as wrappers, as drug paraphernalia.

References: Council Bans Sale of Single Cigars in Bid to Curb Youths' Marijuana Useby Rosalind S. Helderman, Washington Post, 11/19/2008; John Middleton Challenges Sales Ban Joins others in fight for single cigars, Convenience Stores/Petroleum Daily News, 12/31/2008.

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