WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Commerce is investigating whether two tobacco companies are trying to skirt a federal ban on flavored cigarettes by offering their products as cigars instead, according to letters sent to the companies by the committee's chairman.
Sen. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., sent letters to California-based Kretek International and North Carolina-based Cheyenne International targeting their products on Friday.
Both companies had previously sold flavored cigarettes, which were banned last month. They have recently released flavored cigars that are close to the size of a cigarette but are wrapped in tobacco leaves rather than paper and contain cigar tobacco.
Waxman is asking both companies to defend the products, provide sales figures and all communications about the decision to market the flavored cigars.
Kretek International, the largest distributor of clove-flavored tobacco products in the U.S., filed suit last month asking a federal court to decide whether its new Djarum-brand filtered cigars fall under the ban. A Kretek spokesman did not immediately return an e-mail message seeking comment.
A spokesperson for Cheyenne International did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment.