Are they Coming for Your Pipe Tobacco Next?
The ban on flavored cigarettes, which includes widely popular, and mass-distributed for decades, Clove Cigarettes, went into effect yesterday, September 22, 2009.
Clove cigarettes and other flavored cigarettes are now illegal in the USA.
The ban is one of the first visible effects of a new law signed by President Barack Obama in June that gives the Food and Drug Administration wide-ranging authority to regulate tobacco.
Part of the new "Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act" has a ban on flavored cigarettes which went into effect September 22nd. This part of the law has provisions that include a ban on the use of flavors in tobacco, other than menthol. This will include clove cigarettes, a product popular in the US for decades.
The new law gives the FDA the power to ban other products like flavored cigars and pipe tobacco, but that hasn’t happened … yet.
Will it, and if so when?
How did this happen and why?
Tobacco critics say it is to save the children, and rhetoric often implies it is to save us from ourselves as we are not capable of making our own individual lifestyle choices. Often discussed are the harmful effects of tobacco and the "evil tobacco companies" providing a harmful product … as if they are forcing it on an unwilling, unknowing, uneducated public. And by the way, I missed the memo that went out saying that parents no longer have to be responsible for their children.
Rarely talked about or even considered at all is the business and economics of providing a product demanded by the market, and how the economy is negatively effected when this is interfered with. The free market principles this country was built on are massacred by the meddling of the self-appointed people that know what’s good for us better than we do.
Interestingly, Filtered Clove Small Cigars are now being marketed as an alternative for tobacconists and consumers. Cigarettes are defined as tobacco being wrapped in something other than tobacco, such as paper. Cigars are wrapped in tobacco, so although the new cigars look similar to the now illegal cigarettes, they do not meet the definition of a cigarette. Critics call this irresponsible. Whether the cigars are truly different or just an attempt to circumvent the ban by making superficial changes is in the hands of the FDA, said Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "The key is the legislation gives the FDA the authority to respond to these types of frankly totally irresponsible actions," Myers said.
Interestingly, Debra Kelley from the San Diego County chapter of the American Lung Association says a lot of young people start smoking with clove-flavored tobacco. "They’re really aimed at kids," Kelley says. "A lot of adults even today have never even heard of this product. But we know from talking to kids and some studies that have been done, that kids perceive these as natural cigarettes."
A study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control found that clove cigarettes, (aka kreteks) account for a relatively small percentage of underage smoking, and their use was declining among high school students.
With a product that has been widely distributed for several decades suddenly becoming illegal with only a few months notice, there are certainly going to be some serious ramifications for consumers and businesses that have chosen to take part in their distribution and enjoyment.
This certainly doesn’t seem to bode well for business right at a time where we have the 2nd worst economy in US history.
To get some perspective on this and to learn more about the prohibition of clove and other flavored cigarettes, we spoke to John Geoghegan, director of brand development for Moorpark, Calif.-based Kretek International, the now former importer of the Djarum brand clove cigarettes. Djarum had a 97% market share of the clove cigarette market in the US.
PipesMagazine.com: On the business side, what are some of the challenges Kretek and it’s retail distributors will face regarding sales, profits, jobs, marketing budgets and the like?
Mr. Geoghegan: We have been preparing for this for a long time. Although it has come as a shock to consumers, as good business people, we have to stay on top of these things.
PM:How about pre-booked orders, current inventories of clove cigarettes, production of promotional materials and pre-booked trade advertising? People don’t realize that there will be printers and shipping companies losing sales as well as sales reps and retailers, many of them small businesses trying to pay their mortgages and feed their families.
Geoghegan: As I said, we have been ready for this, so our inventories are already depleted and we are allowing retailers to return product after Sept 22, and then we are returning it to the manufacturer. Our marketing budget is now going to be on the cigar side. It’s going to be a smaller business but it is what it is. Everyone has been very cooperative, right down to some of the local jobbers that we sell directly to. They’re all very glad to hear that we’re coming out with a cigar product. We were selling about 55,000 cases a year, and I think we’ve got 1,000 cases in stock right now that we’ll send back to Indonesia.
PipesMagazine.com: Perhaps enforcement will start at the border with Customs making sure clove cigarettes don’t come into the country from Indonesia or anywhere else, but what about inventories on retail shelves? Do these become illegal? Is there a version of the government funded "Cash for Clunkers" for Clove Cigarettes? What happens to these products and who is responsible for the cost if they have to be destroyed or shipped back to their origin?
JG: Actually no, enforcement starts at retail. They’ve decided that they’re going to have a list to help state and local officials in doing retail enforcement. The Food and Drug Administration really doesn’t have any people yet because they don’t have any budgets. And so they decided to enforce this. We even asked them to give us a definition of characterizing flavor so we can decide whether or not we actually have to withdraw certain items. And they said we haven’t figured that out yet. And I said well you took a pretty substantial company, a brand with $140 million of retail sales and you put it out of business without defining what you’re going to do to put it out of business. Well they’re clove cigarettes. I said well that’s not what the law says. The law says a product with a characterizing taste of clove. What measurement devices are used to determine that this has a characteristic taste of tobacco. How do I get my business back?
Congress passed that. And we actually asked for an audience and said we wanted an explanation. In fact, 7-Eleven is investing a lot of money in new stores like $150 or $200 million in retro-fitting stores and new store locations in New York and things like that based on changing traffic patterns and demographics. They went to the FDA and said we want to have an audience with you so you can explain to us what the list of products is that we’re not allowed to sell and what your merchandising regulations are going be so while we are redesigning the interiors of our stores, we can do this properly and not waste a lot of money. And they said well we can’t tell you any of that. Yeah, but you’ve written these laws and the laws have no definition. Well we’re just not going to be able to tell you that.
PM: It sounds like they’re making it up as they go along?
JG: Exactly. So anyway, enforcement starts at the retail sales because that is the way the rule is written, it is that the product is not allowed in interstate commerce. Now the retail store being the end point of interstate commerce, and the retail store apparently in America, all retailers ignore the 18-year-old minimum age and willfully sell cigarettes to underage smokers. Just as a matter of habit if you believe what the campaign for
Tobacco Free Kids says. By the way, clove cigarettes, the size of the clove cigarette market is not measured by any government agency because it’s smaller than a rounding error. And they can’t measure it in terms of consumption.
PM: Some people have told me that because that part of the market is such a small part of the market that’s why they started there because they’ll have the least amount of backlash.
JG: You read the article, the AP article, where I was quoted. So the proposal by all of this is such big brew ha, but we’re so small. Phillip Morris spent $3 billion buying Middleton, which makes Black & Mild, which is flavored with butterscotch and apricots, and cherry blend. And Black & Mild have wine and grape flavors. And Mathew Myers and the campaign for tobacco free Houston, they didn’t say a word. And we come out with a cherry and vanilla flavored clove cigar and they’re all up in arms. Now what’s the matter with this picture? You know we have introduced a product to the marketplace, a flavored cigar, a legal cigar product, they ignore Phillip Morris’s Middleton brands and everybody is taking a kick at us. Why not take a kick at Phillip Morris? They’re the big guys, they’re the number one on the street.
The anti-smoking crowd loves to say there is no safe alternative to cigarettes … but are there better choices? Yes, there are. One of the best alternatives to cigarettes is pipe smoking. Why do I say this? Well, first of all, as you’ve probably guessed, I am a pipe smoker. I get great enjoyment from smoking my pipe. At the same time, I have heard from many former cigarette smokers that have taken up pipe smoking. Everyone of them is glad they did, and for several reasons. It’s cheaper (on a per smoke basis), healthier, and more relaxing.
There are such a wide variety of different types of pipes and tobaccos that it turns into an enjoyable hobby with frequent new experiences. There is also a camaraderie enjoyed between pipe smokers that does not exist with cigarette smokers.
PipesMagazine.com: What about personally owned clove cigarettes? Is it illegal to smoke them after September 22nd? What if a consumer goes out and buys 1,000 packs of Djarum Clove Cigarettes right now and has a 5 year supply? Can he smoke them without getting in trouble? Can he give them away to friends? Can he barter with them?
There’s nothing illegal if a consumer went and bought 1,000 packs to fill their supply. Hey, if he smokes some of that does he get in trouble? I’m trying to think, 1,000, that’s 20,000 sticks. And there’s 2,000 days in five years. That’s a lot of fucking cigarettes. You know people smoke about five cloves a week.
Six cloves a week whereas they smoke about 100 regular cigarettes. You can look up the CDC data. They smoke about 100 regular cigarettes a week. Almost all clove smokers have a regular, you know major brand of cigarettes they smoke, Virginia Slims or Marlboro, or Newport or something like that.
PipesMagazine.com: The new law currently does not include cigars or pipe tobacco and part of Kretek’s strategy and hope for recovering some of the loss of 65% of your business is the introduction of a small Filtered Clove Cigar. The difference is that they use a different type of tobacco, plus they are wrapped in a tobacco leaf rather than paper. What is the name of this product? Is it new, and what is its’ availability?
JG: We’re not going to replace 65%, we’re not going to replace this business with cigars. It’s a much smaller marketplace. But what’s interesting is we are a bigger player in the cigar category on a stick per stick basis. I mean if we had 400 million sticks, if you go look at a brand like White Owl, I think White Owl sells 400 million sticks. We’re not going to sell that much. I mean the cigarette business is 360 billion sticks and the cigar business is I don’t know, 7 billion sticks if you include little cigars. I’m sure exactly what the number is. But we end up having an actual market share in the cigar business. So we’ve some horsepower to be on the shelf. I’m sure that Phillip Morris and Swisher and Swedish Match and the others are really looking forward, Dutch Master is looking forward to having us be there. [Sarcastically]
But we’re going to bring 1.3 million cigarette smokers to the cigar counter, to the cigar section in the stores. They going to come looking for the cloves. And the Associated Press did us a big favor because they sent out all this consumer communication for adult clove smokers and we could never have afforded it on our own.
It’s interesting what Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids said in relation to our clove cigars; "The key is the legislation gives the FDA the authority to respond to these types of frankly totally irresponsible actions".
Well why was our action irresponsible and Phillips Morris’s wasn’t? They spent $3 billion to get into this type of business that they had not already been in. We’ve been selling Djarum, Spice Island cigars for years.
Why does Myers beat up on us when he doesn’t beat up on Phillip Morris who owns the largest brand of flavored cigars on the shelf? Why are we irresponsible and they aren’t?
PM: Probably because he’s a little afraid to pick on the guys that have big guns in the legal department.
JG: Why don’t you find an investigative reporter and find out who pays Matthew Myer’s salary? Why don’t you find out where the campaign for tobacco free kids gets it’s money? Have somebody look that up. And go through some of the foundations and trusts and who’s at the top of the ladder.
PipesMagazine.com: The reason we have a ban on the use of flavors in tobacco is because critics say flavored tobacco appeals to teenagers. Do you agree with this thinking? What type of information and evidence do you have on the profile of your consumers for clove cigarettes? Who smokes them?
JG: 70% of underage smokers state that they use a Phillip Morris brand. 54% of underage smokers state that the first cigarette that they ever smoked was a Marlboro. The number of underage smokers who have ever tried a clove cigarette is 1.6%.
We asked Congress, in fact we advocated in our submissions to this thing that they just raise the smoking age to 21. They said we’re a brand of candy flavored cigarettes. Well there aren’t any candy flavored cigarettes. Well sure there are. They’re out there. They’re the gateway for kids. I said, you’re not listening to me. Go out to a store and bring me back a pack of candy flavored cigarettes. There aren’t any.
PM: You can find candy flavored alcohol though.
JG: That’s another issue.
PM: That’s my point, why can we have candy flavored alcohol, but not clove flavored cigarettes?
Do you think pipe tobacco will eventually be banned like clove cigarettes?
JG: I don’t see how they can be because there’s nothing about pipe tobacco that targets underage smokers. There’s nothing about cigars that targets underage smokers too. But we’re not dealing with rational people.
I don’t know. I think, we’re betting that the Food and Drug Administration has got too much to do. I mean they can’t manage pharmaceuticals. They had to fine Pfizer $2.7 billion for a series of ongoing violations of labeling and incorrect prescriptive guidelines and things like that. It had gone on for years and they didn’t even bother to check on it.
Now there’s your FDA, you know they can’t manage peanut butter and they can’t manage pharmaceuticals or tomatoes so they’re going to manage tobacco.
So can Congress go back and say we’re going to regulate flavored pipe tobacco in order to keep these gateway products away from children, out of the hands of consumers? You know I’m trying to remember at what age I decided I would like to smoke one of my dad’s pipes. I think it was about 25.
Well John, thank you very much. I really appreciate your time.
So why does this site, which is focused on Pipes, Pipe Tobacco and Pipe Smoking spend so much time covering the banning of flavored cigarettes? We want to know if they are coming for our pipe tobacco next, or sometime further into the future.
John Geoghegan says no, but then he realizes we are not dealing with rational or logical people … so maybe it could happen? What is the logic here? Things that are "grown-up" products shouldn’t have flavorings that might appeal to a non-grown-up?
Should we ban flavored coffee? I think we can give much credit to Starbucks and candy-flavored coffee drinks to making coffee cool with the younger crowd. I have heard that caffeine isn’t good for you either. What about flavored soft drinks and candy flavored alcohol?
Is Creme de Menthe next, or will it be the pipe tobacco?
It’s ironic that at the same time we are having calls to legalize marijuana, we have made clove cigarettes illegal. Will clove cigarette smokers start buying their choice of smokes the same way people buy weed, in little baggies in a backroom somewhere?
Thank you US legislators and FDA for making it more difficult for legitimate businesses to make a profit and positively effect the economy, while taking away freedoms of individual choice and giving illegitimate, unlawful individuals and organizations a new way to make a profit on the black market that you won’t collect any taxes on. Thank God we have Saved the Children though!
I love America and I still think we are one of the best countries in the world for a long list of reasons. However, I am really wondering what the heck is going on around here and how long I will maintain my opinion about this country. When did logic and intelligence become obsolete?
Tobacco harms children, tobacco companies target children and we have to save them by making tobacco illegal (or regulating it to death)!
I am sick of this worn-out and illogical argument.
Does tobacco harm some children? Unquestionably. Does it harm some adults? Unquestionably.
Did the people that are harmed by tobacco personally make their own choice or were they held down and forced to use it?
If we were to abolish everything that harmed some adults and children, then guess what? We’d have no food, no candy, no books, no television, no movies, no music, no entertainment, no schools, no workplaces, no parents, no siblings, no family members, no priests, no doctors, no lawyers, no mechanics, no men, no women, no children, no animals, no Earth, etc. etc. etc.
We would also have no personal choice in anything.
Were we born and put on this Earth to be controlled and told what to do like prisoners?
EVERYTHING has the potential for harming children, and adults. Everything. And everything DOES harm some children and adults.
To follow the logic of these people, we should blow up the entire planet to eradicate anything and everything that has the potential for harming anyone.
Perhaps I’m being overdramatic, but if you listen to the argument these nuts are making and carry it to its logical conclusion, this is what you inevitably come up with – eradicating EVERYTHING.
So anything that’s bad for you that tastes good should be banned? I guess we all have to become vegetarians now too.
Here’s some more info:
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a letter on September 14 providing the industry with more specific direction, its first action in regulating tobacco since given the task in July.
So now, it’s not just Clove Cigarettes, but any cigarette with the following flavors:
Strawberry, grape, orange, clove, cinnamon, pineapple, vanilla, coconut, licorice, cocoa, chocolate, cherry or coffee.
Right now this only applies to cigarettes. So what’s a cigarette? Here are the legal definitions:
From the "Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act"
"(3) CIGARETTE.—The term ‘cigarette’ –
"(A) means a product that –
"(i) is a tobacco product; and
"(ii) meets the definition of the term ‘cigarette’ in section 3(1) of the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act; and
"(B) includes tobacco, in any form, that is functional in the product, which, because of its appearance, the type of tobacco used in the filler, or its packaging and labeling, is likely to be offered to, or purchased by, consumers as a cigarette or as roll-your-own tobacco.
section 3(1) of the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act
As used in this chapter –
(1) The term "cigarette" means –
(A) any roll of tobacco wrapped in paper or in any substance not containing tobacco, and
(B) any roll of tobacco wrapped in any substance containing tobacco which, because of its appearance, the type of tobacco used in the filler, or its packaging and labeling, is likely to be offered to, or purchased by, consumers as a cigarette described in subparagraph (A).