New tobacco rules hit tomorrow, June 22, and the FDA has issued separate letters to retailers and manufacturers to ensure the industry is prepared.
Starting tomorrow, manufacturers can no longer manufacture cigarettes, roll-your-own tobacco and smokeless tobacco products labeled or advertised with the descriptors “light,” “low,” “mild,” or similar descriptive words. Beginning on July 22, 2010 manufacturers can no longer introduce these tobacco products into the U.S. marketplace. There is no time limit for retailers to sell through their existing inventory of tobacco products labeled with these descriptive terms.
The FDA urges retailers to rotate stock, in order to reduce the length of time after June 22 that the light, mild, etc. tobacco products remain on store shelves.
On Thursday, the FDA demanded that cigarette maker Philip Morris turn over all market research material on Marlboro Lights, citing concern over an advertisement for the brand.
In a letter to Philip Morris parent company Altria Group, Inc (MO.N), the FDA said it was concerned about advertisements, or “onserts,” attached to packs of Marlboro Lights, Reuters reported.
The onserts include the following statements:
• YOUR MARLBORO LIGHTS PACK IS CHANGING.
• BUT YOUR CIGARETTE STAYS THE SAME.
• IN THE FUTURE, ASK FOR ‘MARLBORO IN THE GOLD PACK.’
“By stating that only the packaging is changing, but the cigarettes will stay the same, the onsert suggests that Marlboro in the gold pack will have the same characteristics as Marlboro Lights, including any mistaken attributes associated with the ‘light’ cigarettes,” the FDA letter read.
Altria must submit by July 30 all materials related to the marketing or sale of Marlboro Lights, including themes, creative recommendations and dissemination strategies, the FDA said.
“We received the letter today and we’re reviewing it and we will respond,” Altria spokesman Bill Phelps told Reuters.
The anti-smoking group Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids said the FDA action would prevent Philip Morris from evading the ban.
“This will give the FDA the information it needs to take additional enforcement action if Philip Morris does not pull the onserts,” the group said in a statement.
Self Service Displays
Since the FDA does not regulate cigars or pipe tobacco, both of these tobacco products can continue to be sold on self-service displays, including in humidors. Cigarettes, rolling tobacco and smokeless tobacco cannot be sold as of June 22, in self-service displays unless a retailer ensures that no one under the age of 18 is present or permitted to enter at any time the facilities where self-service displays are located, the National Association of Tobacco Outlets noted.