Four Tobacco Companies Come Under FDA Fire

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued warning letters to Swisher International Inc., Cheyenne International LLC, Prime Time International Co., and Southern Cross Tobacco Co. Inc. on Dec. 9 for selling flavored cigarettes that are labeled little cigars or cigars. This is a violation of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, according to the agency. 

The letters were issued for products under the Swisher Sweets, Cheyenne, Prime Time, and Criss-Cross brands in a variety of flavors, including grape, cherry, wild cherry, and strawberry.

"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, director of the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products. "Because about 90 percent 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 Tobacco Control Act bans cigarettes containing certain characterizing flavors, such as candy or fruit flavors, to reduce the number of youths who start to smoke and who become addicted to dangerous tobacco products. The FDA began enforcing this provision in September 2009.

The FDA stated that although it determined that these products are labeled as little cigars or cigars, they meet the definition of cigarettes in 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. Due to this, the FDA determined that the products are adulterated because they contain a natural or artificial characterizing flavor, or misbranded if they only purport to do so.

The agency requested that the manufacturers respond to the warning letters within 15 working days of receiving the letter. Failure to obey federal tobacco law could result in the FDA initiating further action, such as civil money penalties, criminal prosecution, seizure and/or injunction.

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

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