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FDA cracks down on 'natural' tobacco claims

FDA cracks down on 'natural' tobacco claims
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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is cracking down on big tobacco packaging claims.

The agency sent warning letters to three companies — ITG Brands LLC, Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company Inc. and Sherman’s 1400 Broadway N.Y.C. Ltd. — for illegally labeling their products as “additive-free” or “natural.”

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The companies, according to FDA regulations, need to submit a modified risk tobacco product application with scientific evidence to support the claims that their products are less harmful than others. To date, the agency said it has not issued any orders introducing modified-risk tobacco products to the marketplace.

The brands the FDA has taken issue with include ITG Brands’s Winston cigarettes, Santa Fe’s Natural American Spirits and Sherman’s Nat Shermans.

The FDA said this is the first time it has used its authority under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009 to take action against companies for making “natural” or “additive-free” claims on product labels.

In a news release, Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, called the regulatory action a milestone for the agency.

“The FDA’s job is to ensure tobacco products are not marketed in a way that leads consumers to believe cigarettes with descriptors like 'additive-free' and 'natural' pose fewer health risks than other cigarettes, unless the claims have been scientifically supported,” he said.

The companies have 15 working days to respond to the warning letters.