FDA Cracks Down on R.J. Reynolds: Bans Four Cigarette Brands

Posted on September 15, 2015

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration brought the hammer down hard on R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company today. The FDA ordered R.J. Reynolds to stop selling four cigarette products: Camel Crush Bold, Pall Mall Deep Set Recessed Filter, Pall Mall Deep Set Recessed Filter Menthol and Vantage Tech 13.

The FDA which was given the power to regulate tobacco sales, says that R. J. Reynolds did not follow the rules for rolling out new cigarette brands. This is the first time the FDA has pulled specific brands off store shelves. The the new cigarette brands were meant to replace four brands which were commercially marketed as of February 15, 2007. Under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act), Reynolds could introduce new brands that are "substantially equivalent" to the old brands without getting prior FDA approval. But these four new brands are not substantially equivalent to the brands they are replacing, according to the government agency.

In a statement the FDA said that the new cigarettes have different characteristics from the products they replaced. Therefore they cannot be sold, distributed, imported or marketed in the U.S. The company has 30 days to get all the new cigarettes off store shelves. Attorney Mitch Zeller, the director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, explained, "These decisions were based on a rigorous, science-based review designed to protect the public from the harms caused by tobacco use. The agency will continue to review product submissions and exercise its legal authority and consumer protection duty to remove products from the market when they fail to meet the public health bar set forth under law."

So why are the new cigarettes so much worse for your health than the old ones? It's not entirely clear. But the crux of it is that the FDA says the new brands have higher levels of menthol, new ingredients and/or more tobacco than the old products. The Camel Crush Bold cigarettes have a new menthol capsule in the filter, for example.

R.J. Reynolds issued a brief statement today saying that it does not agree with the ruling. It's unclear if it will produce data to try to reverse the ruling. The FDA is not fooling around on this tobacco thing: it has asked consumers to report any violations of this ban by using the FDA's Potential Tobacco Product Violation Reporting Form.