Friday, September 25, 2009

Banning Flavored Cigarettes…What’s Next?

Earlier this week the FDA implemented a ban on flavored cigarettes. According to FDA documents, the scientific basis for this action was essentially a 2008 study by Klein et al. in Nicotine and Tobacco Research.

Klein looked at the National Youth Smoking Cessation Survey (NYSCS), finding that 22-23% of smokers age 17-19 years had "used" flavored cigarettes, compared with 9-10% of smokers age 20-26 years and 11% of smokers age 25-39 years (the latter percentage is from another survey).

According to the manuscript, “most flavored cigarette users reported that they usually smoked a brand other than [a flavored one]. Over half of flavored cigarette users (51.1% in NYSCS…) reported use of a usual brand that was manufactured by Philip Morris,” a company that does not make flavored cigarettes. The report could have presented detailed information about use of flavored vs. non-flavored cigarettes; it didn't, probably because the information didn't sustain the authors' conclusion: “Uniquely flavored cigarette brands seem to be most attractive to the youngest smokers and should be prohibited.”

In summary, flavored cigarettes are used by, at most, 2 out of 10 young smokers and aren't even their usual brand, which is unflavored. The Klein report also provided no evidence that flavored cigarettes are tobacco initiation products among young smokers. Of course, anti-tobacco crusaders have two magical words for tobacco regulatory discussions: The children. Virtually any action can be portrayed as protecting youth, and providing a rationale for the action is entirely unnecessary.

Congress directed the FDA to remove flavored cigarettes, so the agency didn’t need to justify the ban. That was fortuitous, because but it appears the FDA had trouble producing a credible scientific rationale. The FDA’s action does serve one of the primary goals of the anti-tobacco crusade: make tobacco use a miserable experience. However, since smokers who occasionally enjoy flavored-cigarettes prefer unflavored brands most of the time, the ban is likely to have minimal to no effect on smoking prevalence. It’s the equivalent of banning wine coolers because they’re occasionally consumed by people who drink a quart of vodka daily.

The FDA “is currently examining options for regulating both menthol cigarettes and flavored tobacco products other than cigarettes.” The only “option” that will satisfy anti-tobacco extremists, who have been whining for years about flavored smokeless products, will be to broaden the ban.


Cindy Findley said...

Here's the Federal Register article that was posted today regarding the ban on flavored cigarettes effective 09/22/09


Food and Drug Administration

[Docket No. FDA-2009-N-0449]

Enforcement of General Tobacco Standard Special Rule for Cigarettes

AGENCY: Food and Drug Administration, HHS.

ACTION: Notice.

SUMMARY: The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the act), as amended by the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (FSPTCA), establishes a tobacco standard special rule for cigarettes. This special rule for cigarettes prohibits a cigarette or any of its component parts (including the tobacco, filter, or paper) from containing, as a constituent (including a smoke constituent) or additive, an artificial or natural flavor (other than tobacco or menthol) or an herb or spice, including strawberry, grape, orange, clove, cinnamon, pineapple, vanilla, coconut, licorice, cocoa, chocolate, cherry, or coffee, that is a characterizing flavor of the tobacco product or tobacco smoke. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is providing this notice to remind regulated industry that as of the effective date identified in the FSPTCA, cigarettes that contain certain characterizing flavors are considered adulterated under the act. FDA is also providing in this notice contact information to which individuals who observe violative products after the effective date of the tobacco standard special rule may report their observations to FDA.

DATES: Effective September 22, 2009.

ADDRESSES: To report tobacco products that fail to comply with section 907(a)(1)(A) of the act after September 22, 2009, please contact the Center for Tobacco Products, Food and Drug Administration, 9200 Corporate Blvd., Rockville, MD 20850-3229, 877-287-1373 or

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Michele Mital, Center for Tobacco Products, Food and Drug Administration, 9200 Corporate Blvd., Rockville, MD 20850-3229, 877-287-1373,

74 FR 48974 -- Sep. 25, 2009 FDA source: or

Brad Rodu said...


Thanks for your comment, and for the federal register entry.

The register is the official journal of record for the federal government. This entry, as well as the FDA documents, provides no credible scientific rationale for banning cigarette flavors.

The purpose of this blog is to "examine and comment on the scientific foundation for tobacco policies and fallacies." Informed readers can determine whether the ban on cigarette flavors is a legitimate policy or fallacy.


Nick said...

What I find incredibly disturbing is that there has been zero uproar about the variety of flavored NRT products now available for commercial purchase. Not only are they advertised on television, but they are in broad display at most pharmacies and supermarkets. It is not surprising that anti-tobacco extremists conveniently disregard any consistency since these products are manufactured and marketed by a number of major pharmaceutical companies.

If Congress and the FDA really want to make an impact, then they would evaluate the paltry efficacy of these products as smoking cessation aids. Paying $40-50 for a flavored product with an 8% success rate just seems impractical. Certainly they would be in opposition to US children being exposed to these products in everyday environments, let alone during peak television hours.