WASHINGTON (FNS) -- The Federal Trade Commission last week announced that U.S. cigar manufacturers have agreed to post warnings about the adverse health risks of cigar smoking on all of their products and advertising.
The FTC decision comes in the wake of a continuing upswing in cigars' popularity that began in the mid-1990s, raising concerns among federal health officials. "Cigar smoking is considered by many consumers to be a harmless alternative to cigarette smoking, [but] according to the Surgeon General and scientific evidence, they are dead wrong," Robert Pitofsky, the agency's chairman, said last Monday in announcing the labeling plan.
The agreement by companies, whose products account for about 95% of the U.S. cigar market, was reached after the government alleged the companies violated the FTC Act by failing to disclose the health risks of cigar smoking. In signing a consent agreement with the U.S., the companies did not admit guilt, but agreed to remedial labeling, similar to that required by the FTC for cigarette and smokeless tobacco products.
"These settlements will help end that misperception [that cigars pose no health risks to smokers] and ensure that consumers receive clear and prominent warnings about the risk of indulging in cigars," Pitofsky added.
Under the agreement, cigar makers will be required to "clearly and conspicuously display" one of five warnings on all cigar packages and boxes, and in all advertisements. Each of the warning statements begins with the words "SURGEON GENERAL WARNING:" in boldface, capital letters. The warnings detail the health risk associated with cigar smoking and tobacco, in general, both to the smoker, and non-smoker, alike.
The five companies that signed the consent agreement are: Consolidated Cigar Corp.; General Cigar Holdings, Inc.; Havatampa, Inc.; John Middleton, Inc.; Lane Limited, Inc., and Swedish Match North America.
The FTC will accept public comment on the consent agreement until July 26 and then must vote to accept it, though this is seen as a formality.