Big Tobacco Is In Big Trouble Again Over Cigarette Advertising

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The number of adult smokers in America dropped from 21 percent in 2005 to around 18 percent in 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Still, more than 3,200 people younger than 18 years of age smoked their first cigarette, so the CDC has a long way to go to stub out smoking and tobacco use in America.

The Food and Drug Administration is doing its part. It sent warning letters to a subsidiary of Reynolds American Inc. as well as ITG Brands LLC to say that the advertisement of cigarettes as “additive free” and “natural” was not going to fly with the federal government, JournalNow.com reports. According to the Associated Press, the FDA said that the products cannot market themselves that way before getting a “modified risk tobacco product order.”

The brands under fire include Natural American Spirit from Reynolds-owned Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Co., ITG’s Winston, and Nat Sherman from Sherman’s 1400 Broadway N.Y.C. Ltd. The brands have 15 days to respond to the letter and explain exactly how they will fix the problem or show how the problem the FDA has identified is not a problem at all. The FDA is using power that it attained in 2009 with the passage of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.

Santa Fe may be the brand that lit the FDA’s fire when it launched an ad campaign in numerous print outlets that said the brand was “additive-free.”

“We were prompted by the aggressiveness and boldness of the new campaigns,” said Matt Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, JournalNow.com reports. “I think the recent ads are even more blatant and push the envelope further. The research we cited shows the industry knows that the claims are perceived as health claims, and the research we cited shows that the public continues to be deceived even after the disclaimer was added.”

The FDA, meanwhile, is under pressure to release its next version of proposed tobacco regulations, which has been anticipated for the past two years. It contacted the tobacco companies only a few days after a “large group of anti-tobacco organizations sent the FDA a letter urging the agency to enforce regulations against Santa Fe Natural Tobacco over marketing claims,” the AP reports.

“The potential for irreparable damage to public health from the marketing of tobacco products with modified risk claims is well illustrated by the industry’s years of deceptive advertising of ‘light’ and ‘low-tar’ cigarettes,” said the letter, which was signed by 29 anti-smoking groups.

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