Tag Archives: American Spirit

FDA reaches agreement with Natural American Spirit

The FDA and Natural American Spirit cigarettes have been locked in a legal battle for a couple of years now over the brand’s advertising that its tobacco is “natural” and “additive-free.”

The FDA  reached an agreement (secretly, apparently) with American Spirit that allows the brand (owned by Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company which is not an independent company, it’s actually a wholly-owned subsidiary of RJ Reynolds) to keep “Natural” in its name, but that it must stop all advertising that its tobacco is “additive-free”. The FDA way back in August 2015 gave American Spirit a cease and desist order on its advertising. RJ Reynolds filed an appeal and for more than a year, I’ve continued seeing American Spirit ads in my Sports Illustrated, still touting “natural!” and “additive-free.”

The agreement was reached in January, but was disclosed this month as part of a discovery process in other litigation involving Natural American Spirit.

Not everyone is happy with the settlement. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free kids put out a statement that it doesn’t go nearly far enough. From the CTFK website:

“This FDA/Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company agreement is a gift to the tobacco industry, permitting R.J. Reynolds to continue the highly misleading, and very possibly legally fraudulent, marketing and labeling of American Spirit cigarettes,” said Robin Koval, CEO & President, Truth Initiative. “Our research shows that a majority of Natural American Spirit smokers incorrectly believe that their cigarettes are safer than other cigarettes. The truth is that they are just as dangerous as any other cigarette. This agreement does little to address those widespread and highly dangerous misperceptions. The only way to protect consumers is for the FDA to immediately go back to the drawing board to ensure that R.J. Reynolds and Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company can no longer mislead consumers about the safety of their product.”

Earlier this month, RJ Reynolds reached a settlement agreement that it will stop doing that. I’ll be keeping my eye on Natural American Spirit ads to see if they do! Their false advertising that somehow a “natural” tobacco is somehow safer (and there are people out there who believe this malarkey hook, line and sinker) his has been bugging me for a couple of years.

Class-action lawsuit planned against American Spirit cigarettes

American Spirit

This story is actually a few weeks old, but I just now heard of it. I found out about it while arguing with someone who claims that American Spirit cigarettes are better for you than other brands (The FDA has warned American Spirit to stop with its “natural” and “additive-free” advertising.

Anyway, a class-action lawsuit being planned in Florida intends to take bolder action than the FDA. From the Santa Fe New Mexican:

A Florida law firm this week filed the first attempt at a class-action lawsuit against the Santa Fe-based company and its parent, Reynolds American Inc. of Winston-Salem, N.C., claiming the cigarette maker’s packaging and advertising are intended to mislead smokers into thinking American Spirit cigarettes are healthier than other tobacco products.

The FDA last August warned American Spirit to drop its advertising of being “organic” and “additive-free.” Now, since then, I’ve seen American Spirit ads in Sports Illustrated that still say “organic” and “additive-free,” however, I see in this story an explanation. The FDA told American Spirit to come up with a plan for “corrective actions.” So, even though they’ve been given a stern warning by the Feds, American Spirit has continued with its dubious marketing.

From the Santa Fe New Mexican:

The lawsuit filed (in October 2015) in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida by Justin Sproule notes that American Spirit sales increased by 86 percent from 2009 to 2014, as compared to an overall 17 percent decline in cigarette sales in the United States during the same period. Just this week, Reynolds American announced that it had agreed to sell the international rights to the brand to Japanese buyers for $5 billion.

The complaint seeks damages on behalf of Sproule and others who “smoke American Spirits because they have been deceived by claims, labels and advertising into regarding them as safer than other cigarettes.”

Descriptions such as “additive-free,” “natural” and “organic,” the lawsuit says, “are patently deceptive, especially in today’s market, where these terms have a potent meaning for the health-and-environmentally-conscious consumer.”

The company also exploits its marketing message in other ways, the complaint says, by selling its cigarettes in health food stores. “And it accompanies its cigarettes with literature from ‘America’s leading natural foods teacher’ who claims that the cigarettes are medicinal and that Native Americans smoke such additive free cigarettes without developing cancer.”

I think it’s also interesting that the lawsuit is being filed in Florida. Florida has become a very unfriendly place for the tobacco industry. Many years ago, in what’s known as the Engle Case, the tobacco industry lost a massive $145 billion class-action lawsuit in Florida. The Florida Supreme Court threw that settlement out, saying the case couldn’t be decided on a class-action basis and that each victim (or victim’s family) that was sickened or killed by tobacco had to file their suits individually.

Since then, partly because of the way the Supreme Court ruling was written, which essentially said the plaintiffs were right, they just couldn’t sue on a class-action basis, there’s been a veritable cottage industry of lawsuits against the tobacco industry in Flordia. Several thousand lawsuits, in fact, and the majority of those cases that have been decided have been decided in favour of the plaintiffs. Hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements have been paid out and hundreds of millions more of settlements are still caught up in the appeals process.

I think because of this, a lot of attorneys who specialize in litigation against the tobacco industry have migrated to Florida. That’s where the action is, so to speak. So that doesn’t surprise me this class-action suit against American Spirit is coming out of Florida.

 

 

FDA: End of the line for so-called “natural” and “additive-free” tobacco products

American Spirit
Not any more “Natural” than any other brand.

Awesome story. The Food and Drug Administration told RJ Reynolds and other cigarette companies to stop it with their false advertising about “natural tobacco” cigarette products — this includes the infamous “American Spirit” brand of cigarettes.

American Spirit claims to be a “natural, additive-free” cigarette brand. A lot of people believe these are Native-made cigarettes, but in fact, American Spirit is a wholly owned subsidiary of RJ Reynolds, makers of Camel cigarettes and plenty of other nasty-ass brands. It’s all a big show that has fooled many people.

From an NBC article:

“The FDA has determined that these products, described as ‘natural’ and ‘additive-free’ on their labeling, need an FDA modified risk tobacco product order before they can be legally introduced as such into interstate commerce,” the agency said in a statement.

“The FDA’s job is to ensure tobacco products are not marketed in a way that leads consumers to believe cigarettes with descriptors like ‘additive-free’ and ‘natural’ pose fewer health risks than other cigarettes, unless the claims have been scientifically supported,” said Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products.

“This action is a milestone, and a reminder of how we use the tools of science-based regulation to protect the U.S. public from the harmful effects of tobacco use.”

This affects a couple of other brands, but American Spirit is the most high-profile. This has been yet again one of Big Tobacco’s big lies. That somehow tobacco brands with fewer additives are “natural” and (hint, hint) without actually coming right out and saying so, because coming right out and saying so would be incredibly @#$%ing illegal, they’re some safer or healthier.

Lucky Strike cigarette ad 1940s

Nope, nope, nope, nothing could be further from the truth. These brands (two others I hadn’t heard of previously are Nat Sherman and ITG) are NOT safer and do NOT contain fewer additives. Many years ago, Big Tobacco kept trying to find sneaky and dishonest ways to market their products as somehow being safer or “approved by doctors.” The industry’s lies about these ads was long ago exposed. The whole “natural” and “additive-free” lie is using the same techniques as the old “four out of five doctors approve Camels” ads from the 1940s and 1950s.

The FDA several years ago was given regulatory authority over tobacco and specifically nicotine by a bill signed by Barack Obama. That authority gives the FDA the authority to control the marketing of cigarette products. The whole “natural, additive-free” fight has been a thorn in the side of tobacco control advocates for years. And now, it appears the FDA isn’t screwing around and cracking down.

By the same token, I believe the FDA could use this same power to crack down on the marketing of e-cigs, since they are likewise a nicotine product.

As an aside, several years ago, a really angry email from me actually convinced Discovery Magazine to drop “American Spirit” ads from its magazine. A reminder that giving a damn can make a real difference sometimes.