The Ban

On September 22nd, the FDA banned the sale of flavored cigarettes, most likely you didn’t notice as these types of smokes are usually purchased with a specific intent that normally does not come up in the middle of the week. You were more likely to notice the absence of clove cigarettes, notably Djarum Blacks, from the hands of teenage Goths while writing poetry in their composition notebooks talking about how much they hate the world (provided they are not sitting in the dark ‘basking in the shadows’). No, this is the type of ban that the senator that recommended it, the senator that seconded it, and everyone who supported it can pat themselves on the back for but everyone knows does nothing.

How ineffective is this ban? Let’s take the example of the Nat Sherman company’s Mint cigarettes. Nat Sherman is primarily a cigar manufacturer that also produces higher end cigarettes. One of their lines has been the “mint cigarette” which tastes like a menthol but instead uses actual mint leaves as part of the flavoring. A little strong for my taste but you can tell the natural difference. The FDA ban, while not including menthol, does ban mint due to the technical specificity of the ban. From the act itself: “…a cigarette or any of its component parts (including the tobacco, filter, or paper) shall not contain, 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.”

So the law stated above does not include menthol but it does include mint. Semantically there isn’t much of a difference because menthol emulates mint, so what does Nat Sherman do? Well from a note card inside a pack of Nat Sherman Mint’s: “New laws being proposed before Congress will most likely ban the use of the term “mint,*” but will allow the term “menthol.” As a responsible manufacturer, we will comply and adjust the packaging of our mint brands to refer to them as menthol.
WE ARE MAKING NO OTHER CHANGES TO OUR MINT CIGARETTE BRANDS! The only change is the descriptor, which will begin appearing on our packages for our mint brands in the near future.
(Emphasis theirs)

Nat Sherman did the legal thing. A cigarette is legally defined as a roll of tobacco within a material that is not tobacco. So cigars are not under the domain of the ban as they are rolled in a tobacco leaf. Sherman had no choice but to change the name to keep on selling their mint cigarettes. Djarum, on the other hand has an issue because a Clove goes by no other name. How did the Blacks get around the ban? By repackaging the clove cigarettes as clove cigars. More of a change than Nat Sherman had to accomplish but the same thing can still be bought, although they now come ten to a pack rather than twenty.

The impetus behind the ban is that the flavored cigarettes are considered gateway cigarettes for teenagers to become smoker of regular cigarettes. This constitutes a health emergency, yet somehow menthol cigarettes which are the largest selling flavored cigarettes in the country can escape the ban? It’s complete bullshit because how many people reading this have smoked a pineapple cigarette? The only time I have seen a citrus fruit flavored cigarette was when Camel was handing them out in a Buffalo Nightclub ten years ago! I know that Camel also rotates a series of flavored smokes but I have never seen anyone smoking them, which is why they were on a rotating basis.

But why the exemption on menthol if the FDA knows that this is the largest selling flavor? Well Miriam Falco from CNN asked the press conference that very question and here is how Dr. Lawrence Deyton of the FDA answered: “In terms of the question of menthol, the law specifically asks us to look at menthol separately. And we will be doing that.

Which is a non-answer. If they are such a problem then why don’t we ban them? If cigarettes are such a health issue why not just cut out the bullshit ineffectual steps and just ban those as well? Is it the tax revenue that the government gets by keeping them legal but paying lip service to the population? Or is it something else that the warp and weft of my mind cannot comprehend?

I have no answers to these questions. The only thing I can say is that this is the sort of useless law that does nothing but looks nice on someone’s voting record, and it will probably play very nicely in November when some housewife throws down her Menthol Newport Slim as she walks into a voting booth.

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Categories: daily complaint, politics
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