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For immediate release - Thursday, May 18.

Contact: Bill Roach 515-281-5536.

Attorney General Tom Miller Asks Federal Agency to Stop
Tobacco Industry's Sales of Cigarettes Disguised as "Little Cigars"

DES MOINES.   Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller and other Attorneys General have filed a petition with the U.S. Department of Treasury asking the federal agency to close a loophole that allows tobacco manufacturers to pass off cigarettes wrapped in brown paper as "little cigars."

"While sales of these 'little cigars' are still small, this growing trend places at risk the health and safety of our citizens, especially our youth," said Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, co-chair of the National Association of Attorneys General Tobacco Committee. "Attorneys General and public health organizations have been successful in lowering cigarette smoking rates among teens, but the growing use of 'little cigars' threatens over time to reverse these gains."

The "little cigars," which are the same size and shape of cigarettes, have filter tips like cigarettes, and are packaged in traditional cigarette packaging, are actually cigarettes disguised in brown wrappers. Cigarettes disguised as "little cigars" appear in the same varieties as regular cigarettes, such as "light," "menthol" and "full flavor," and are often sweetened with flavors like chocolate, cherry, and vanilla. These appealing flavors, and their ready availability in packs of five, eight, or even single sticks, make the product more attractive and less costly for teens to buy.

The current federal policy for classification of cigars and cigarettes allows products that are actually cigarettes to be marketed, taxed and sold as cigars. Tobacco companies use this loophole to evade state and federal laws aimed at protecting the public from the harms of cigarettes. It also allows manufacturers to circumvent the landmark 1998 tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (MSA), which imposes significant additional public health restrictions on the advertising, promotion and marketing of cigarettes by tobacco companies, particularly to youth.

Current TTB rules allow tobacco manufacturers themselves to decide whether their product is a cigar or a cigarette and pay the corresponding tax rate. However, cigars are taxed at a significantly lower rate than cigarettes by federal and state governments. By self-classifying their cigarettes as cigars, the tax differential allows the tobacco companies to price cigars at half the price of cigarettes, or even less, making them more affordable for youth.

Federal data shows that little cigar production, sales and consumption have increased dramatically in recent years, while cigarette production, sales and consumption have declined significantly. The sharply divergent trends suggest that a good portion of the growth in the little cigar segment is attributable to brown cigarettes being passed off as "little cigars."

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