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FDA rules may jeopardize Black & Mild cigar name

Published on NewsOK Modified: August 11, 2014 at 2:41 pm •  Published: August 11, 2014

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Plans to regulate cigars and other tobacco products the same as cigarettes may threaten one of the nation's top-selling cigar brands — Black & Mild.

Under the Food and Drug Administration proposal, cigar makers would have to remove descriptions like "light," ''mild," ''medium" or "low" from their products, raising a unique question about the fate of Black & Mild.

The descriptions were banned for cigarettes under a 2009 law because many smokers wrongly thought they meant the products were less harmful than "full-flavor" cigarettes. Cigarette makers have since replaced those words with colors such as gold, silver, blue and orange on such brands, which usually feature different filters and milder-flavored blends.

In a filing made public Monday, Richmond-based Altria Group Inc., which owns Black & Mild maker John Middleton Co., voiced concerns that the proposal may force them to abandon or change the brand name.

The company argues the brand name isn't intended to tell smokers that they're any less harmful, citing a company-sponsored survey of more than 300 cigar smokers, none of which mentioned the words "health," ''risk," or "safety" in their response to what the brand name conveyed. It asked the FDA to clarify whether a ban on the terms would extend to cigars and its trademark, and said any ban on the brand name would be unconstitutional.

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