Are Hello Kitty cigarettes coming to a convenience store near you?
Stanton Glantz is the king of anti-nicotine hyperbole. So it’s no surprise that he used a federal court decision on tobacco packaging as an excuse to fear monger on his blog about the cigarette industry’s intention to market to children.
All that actually happened was that a federal court ruled that minor changes to tobacco packaging did not constitute the creation of a new product that would have to go through the Premarket Tobacco Application (PMTA) or Substantial Equivalence pathways to approval.
Of course, that drove Glantz crazy. The University of California-San Francisco cardiology prof-turned-tobacco warrior is a big believer in the power of cigarette packaging. According to him, “Even seemingly small pack refinements such as increasing white space, reducing a red band, or lightening brown color tones are used to influence how consumers perceive the strength of the cigarette inside the pack.”
So, according to this ruling, the FDA could authorize Marlboro cigarettes in Hello Kitty packages for sale (as substantially equivalent) as long as the cigarettes themselves were unchanged.
The fact that kids and their parents might perceive Hello Kitty cigarettes as tasting milder and being less harmful than Marlboro full flavor in Philip Morris’ iconic red chevron pack is, according to the court, not relevant.
Prof. Glantz has replaced the Hello Kitty blog entry discussed here with one about teddy bear cigarettes. Presumably he was legally threatened by the owners of the Hello Kitty brand. The content isn’t any smarter. (Thanks to Shannon and Sarah for catching the change.)
All kidding aside...
Professor Glantz has far more confidence in the power of packaging than advertising experts do. But whether or not “reducing a red band” on a pack of cigarettes actually influences non-smokers to take up the deadly habit, as the nutty professor believes, there is no chance that any tobacco company would bring upon itself the storm of bad press that would follow putting cartoons on their packages.
There is a minor benefit to vapor businesses from this court decision, though. E-liquid manufacturers will now be able to make changes to their labels without creating what the FDA considers a “new product.” That’s a small victory in this war, but it is a victory.