WASHINGTON — The top distributor of clove-flavored tobacco products in the U.S. is asking a federal court to decide whether its new filtered cigars fall under a new federal ban on flavored cigarettes.
Kretek International Inc., which imports Djarum brand tobacco products from Indonesia, sued the Food and Drug Administration Sept. 22.
The company claims the FDA, which was granted authority to regulate tobacco in June, has threatened to ban its products and the regulator is causing the company to lose money.
The FDA's ban on manufacturing, importing, marketing and distributing candy-, fruit- and clove-flavored cigarettes took effect Sept. 22. It does not include menthol or other flavored tobacco products like cigars — issues that the FDA is studying.
Moorpark, Calif.-based Kretek International recently began selling small filtered spice-flavored cigars that are close to the size of a cigarette but are wrapped in tobacco rather than paper and contain cigar tobacco. As part of the lawsuit, it is asking for a judgment from the court that its new products do not fall under the FDA's current ban.
Kretek says its Djarum cigar products meet federal standards for cigars. The company said the difference between cigarettes and cigars has been defined by laws that have been on the books for more than 30 years.
"We have made every effort to meet the letter and spirit of the law," John Geoghegan, Kretek's director of brand development, said in a news release.
FDA spokeswoman Kathleen Quinn said the agency does not comment on pending litigation.