House committee probes whether flavored cigars fall under federal ban on flavored cigarettes

The U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce is investigating claims from public health groups about whether two tobacco companies’ flavored cigars fall under a ban on flavored cigarettes, according to letters sent to the companies by the committee’s chairman.

Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., sent letters to California-based Kretek International and North Carolina-based Cheyenne International targeting their flavored cigars on Friday. Waxman is asking both companies to defend the products, provide sales figures and all communications about marketing flavored cigars.

Cheyenne International has made its filtered cigars with fruit and other flavors, including whiskey and rum, for several years. It had not previously marketed flavored cigarettes, as suggested by a letter from a number of public health groups to federal officials. CEO Bill Greiwe said the company has never made flavored cigarettes other than menthol cigarettes and that the allegations made by the public health groups are “completely false” and “unsubstantiated.”

Kretek International, the largest distributor of clove-flavored tobacco products in the U.S., had previously sold flavored cigarettes, which were banned last month. They have recently released flavored cigars that are close to the size of a cigarette but are wrapped in tobacco leaves rather than paper and contain cigar tobacco.

Kretek International filed suit last month asking a federal court to decide whether its new Djarum-brand filtered cigars fall under the ban. A Kretek spokesman did not immediately return an e-mail message seeking comment.

source: Associated Press

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