RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — For the first time, federal regulators on Friday ordered four tobacco products pulled from U.S. shelves that the company says it hasn't sold in years.
The Food and Drug Administration told Jash International Inc. to stop selling Sutra-branded cigarettes called bidis (BEE-dees) under a 2009 law that gave the FDA authority to regulate tobacco.
Mitch Zeller, the director of the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products said the company, after multiple opportunities, failed to give the agency adequate information to allow the products to remain on the market.
Zeller called the action an important step in the history of tobacco regulation because it is the first time the federal government has halted the sale of a tobacco product.
"Historically, tobacco companies controlled which products came on and off the market without any oversight," Zeller said.
Despite the symbolic milestone, a company representative said it hasn't sold the products being targeted by the FDA since around 2010 when flavored tobacco products were banned.
Bidis are thin, hand-rolled cigarettes filled with tobacco and wrapped in leaves from a tendu tree that are tied with string. They are popular in India and are often flavored.
"They haven't been selling the bidis in years ... because we abandoned all those applications," said Barry Boren, a lawyer that handled communications between the FDA and Jash International, which does sell cigarettes.
"They couldn't comply. So basically that whole industry disappeared."