U.S. - flavored cigarettes illegal after Wednesday, September 22, 2009..

September 16, 2009 - With just under a week left before the sales of flavored cigarettes become illegal, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a letter providing the industry with more specific direction, its first action in regulating tobacco since given the task in July.

As the letter explains, "An important way to reduce the death and disease caused by smoking is to prevent children and adolescents from starting to smoke. Congress has stated that flavors make cigarettes more appealing to youth and often result in exposure to additional carcinogens and other toxic constituents. The removal from the market of cigarettes that contain certain characterizing flavors is an important step in FDA's efforts to reduce the burden of illness and death caused by tobacco products."

According to the letter, retailers have until September 22 to completely remove a cigarette or any of its component parts (including the tobacco, filter or paper) that contains any artificial or natural flavor (other than tobacco or menthol) or an herb or spice...that is a characterizing flavor of the tobacco product or smoke. Retailers who fail to do so will be subject to seizure and the "full range of enforcement tools within the agency's authority" to ensure compliance. "In addition, manufacturers, distributors and retailers may be subject to injunction actions, civil money penalties and/or criminal prosecution."

The information was both news and a source of frustration to at least one small retailer, Lancaster, Ohio-based Pipe Emporium Inc. dba Smokers Emporium Downtown. Maria Williams, assistant manager at the store, said she heard about clove cigarettes through customers buying up her stock and did her own research to confirm it. She didn't know about other flavors being hit until a conversation with CSP Daily News. "It's a little bit frustrating actually, because we don't even really get a heads up on this stuff unless somebody says something to us."

Details of the regulation, as clarified this week from a letter from the director of the FDA's new Center for Tobacco Products, Lawrence Deyton, specifically state the following flavors as being "adulterated": strawberry, grape, orange, clove, cinnamon, pineapple, vanilla, coconut, licorice, cocoa, chocolate, cherry or coffee.

As both a consumer and somebody running a store, she said, the law is an annoyance. "I see it as too much emphasis is put on regulation and not enough on personal responsibility," Williams said.

She added that her store's clove cigarette consumers tend to be women, who smoke three of them a day maximum, or just as an occasional treat. And while she does understand why marketing of such products should be watched to ensure it doesn't encourage children to smoke, the regulation is also taking away choice for adults. "Everybody has their own choices in flavors; I didn't suddenly develop old-people taste buds," she said, adding that she occasionally likes her chocolate-mocha Dreams cigarettes. "It's the option of choice, I guess, that is the biggest reason why some people get so frustrated with it."

And with only a couple of clove cigarette packs on her store's shelf, she said she will likely just buy them herself if they don't find a home. "For us personally, I don't see it affecting us majorly, just because we are really a relatively small tobacco store," she said. "It's more of a disappointing sign of the times."

Meanwhile, September 18, representatives from the National Association of Tobacco Outlets (NATO) will participate in a "Listening Session" conference call scheduled by the FDA, the group said. The purpose of the conference call is for the FDA to listen to industry retailers with comments on how to implement the FDA tobacco regulations.

One area that NATO representatives will comment on is the ban on color tobacco advertising in all retail stores and the requirement that only "tombstone" advertising consisting of black letters on a white background be allowed in retail stores, said NATO. Since a lawsuit has been filed against the FDA seeking to declare the advertising restrictions unconstitutional, NATO representatives will direct comments to the FDA regarding the unconstitutionality of the advertising ban, it said.

It will be interesting to watch how the FDA's Tobacco Center conducts business with Dr. Deyton in charge. One tobacco analyst has said that the [tobacco]industry was reassured that the FDA did not select an antitobacco advocate to lead the office.

Reference: Burned on Flavor FDA further defines flavored-cigarette ban; retailer reacts by Linda Abu-Shalback Zid, Convenience Store / Petroleum (CSP) Daily News, 9/16/2009.

Tobacco Center (Center for Tobacco Products) related news briefs:
FDA Moves Forward on Implementation of Tobacco Law..;
Dr. Lawrence Deyton to head FDA's Tobacco Center..;
U.S.- creating the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products..
U.S. FDA posts job for new tobacco czar..;
President Obama signs bill for FDA to regulate tobacco...