In 2009 the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act was signed into law giving the Food and Drug Administration the power to regulate the tobacco industry. Flavored cigarettes, “including cloves, cinnamon, candy and fruit flavors,with a special exception of menthol,” were banned as part of this act. But it didn’t stop the tobacco industry from selling these same products labeled as “little cigars.” Fast forward to 2016 and the FDA is issuing warnings to stop selling the flavored products that are “misleadingly labeled as cigars or “little cigars.” Upon receiving the letters, the tobacco companies have 15 days to respond.
If you put a little cigar and a cigarette next to each other, you may think they look alike as they are the same size, shape and “both can have filters.” According to the cigar industry, “cigars are wrapped in tobacco leaf or brown paper that must contain at least two-thirds tobacco by weight,” while cigarettes are wrapped in paper. Little cigars are also cheaper and can be sold individually, while cigarettes must be sold in packs of 20 here in the U.S. The reason for the warning letters is that the FDA “argued ‘their overall presentation, appearance, and packing and labeling’ mean they are likely to be ‘offered to or purchased by’ consumers as cigarettes.”
While many people know the hazards of cigarettes, they may perceive cigars as less harmful, especially youth who use the products because of flavors and cost. In fact, in a 2013-2014 study “nearly 80 percent of current youth tobacco users reported using a flavored tobacco product in the past 30 days.” If it wasn’t for the flavors, the number of youth users would be lower.
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