Surprise! FDA Questions Altria s Marketing Tactics

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Remember our earlier Dispatch questioning a Stare Back ad? Well, this morning, ACSH s Dr. Elizabeth Whelan was appalled when she saw a one-page Camel Snus ad with the message BE There DO That and a very prominent warning label comprising a quarter of the page. Who would have known that this ad is for the less harmful, smokeless nicotine alternative, snus, unless they read it with a magnifying glass? Camel is resorting to discursive advertising methods to abide by new FDA regulations, but whereas cigarettes are much more harmful, theyBE There DO That Camel snu ad do not have warning labels this large, which do not permit them to state the truth: that smokeless tobacco products are far less hazardous than cigarettes. In any case, we at ACSH find this ad (allegedly for snus?) to be as puzzling as the 'Stare Back' one we discussed in an earlier Dispatch.

Meanwhile, the FDA is demanding that the Altria Group, which manufactures Marlboro Lights, hand over its marketing analysis into their attachment of notes informing consumers that while their cigarette s packaging will change (to a new color-coded package), their cigarette will not. Critics believe that the tactic violates new laws banning deceptive labeling of tobacco products that can imply that lite cigarettes are safer which they are not.

Dr. Ross is not surprised. We predicted that cigarette companies would find ways to get around the bans, and lo and behold, they re doing it. Now the FDA is demanding information from them, which the companies will likely provide. If the FDA tries to take away their ability to get around these bans, they will be hit with a First Amendment lawsuit.

ACSH s Jeff Stier agrees. If a company is not allowed to indicate what they are selling it is tantamount to a ban, which the law expressly forbids.