PhotoFour tobacco manufacturers -- Swisher International, Cheyenne International, Prime Time International, and Southern Cross Tobacco Company have run afoul of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for their sales policies.

The agency has sent warning letters to the four, accusing them of selling flavored cigarettes that are labeled as little cigars or cigars -- a violation of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.

The letters addressed sales of products under the “Swisher Sweets,” “Cheyenne,” “Prime Time,” and “Criss-Cross” brands in a variety of what the FDA calls “youth-appealing flavors,” including grape, cherry, wild cherry, and strawberry.

Brilliant disguise

“Flavored cigarettes appeal to kids and disguise the bad taste of tobacco, but they are just as addictive as regular tobacco products and have the same harmful health effects,” said Mitch Zeller, J.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products. “Because about 90% of adult daily smokers smoked their first cigarette by the age of 18, continued enforcement of the ban on cigarettes with characterizing flavors is vital to protect future generations from a lifetime of addiction.”

The 2009 Tobacco Control Act banned cigarettes containing certain characterizing flavors, such as candy or fruit flavors, to reduce the number of youth who start to smoke and who become addicted to dangerous tobacco products.

While labeled as little cigars or cigars, FDA has determined the products meet the definition of cigarettes under the Tobacco Control Act because they are likely to be offered to, or purchased by, consumers as cigarettes based on their overall presentation, appearance, packaging, and labeling.

In addition, since the products meet the definition of a cigarette, the agency determined that the products are adulterated because they contain a natural or artificial characterizing flavor, or they are misbranded if they only purport to do so.

Response requested

The FDA has ask the four firms to respond to the warning letters within 15 working days of receiving the letter. The agency says that failure to obey federal tobacco law may result in further action, including -- but not limited to -- civil money penalties, criminal prosecution, seizure, and/or injunction.

The agency says it expects many of these products will remain available for purchase by consumers at retail establishments while it works with the manufacturers to ensure the products are in compliance with the requirements of the law.

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