July 23, 2014

A Sweet Tobacco Amendment Is Nixed

How sweet it isn’t for MacAndrews & Forbes.

The holding company’s lobbying effort to clarify a section of the tobacco bill aimed at shutting down the flavored cigarettes market was put on hold Wednesday after Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) indicated that no amendments would be added to the bill.

The company, which operates a more than 100-year-old licorice plant in economically depressed Camden, N.J., is worried that the provision will have the unintended effect of making tobacco companies skittish about using licorice as an additive in cigarettes.

Licorice is listed as one of several additives, or “characterizing flavors,” including strawberry, grape, orange, clove and cinnamon, that are no longer allowed to flavor cigarettes.

The only problem: Licorice isn’t added to cigarettes as a flavor, according to MacAndrews & Forbes spokeswoman Christine Taylor.

The company is the largest producer of licorice flavors in the United States. More than half the licorice it sells is used as a moistening agent in the manufacturing of American-blend cigarette products.

The company looked to its home-state Senator, Frank Lautenberg (D), to insert language that would have precisely defined the “characterizing flavor” that the bill bans.

Lautenberg, who has long been a staunch anti-tobacco advocate, lobbied his colleagues to insert language in the tobacco bill markup, but tobacco companies had opposed the inclusion.

After that failed, he submitted an amendment that would have defined a “characterizing flavor” as “a distinguishable flavor, taste, or aroma imparted by the tobacco product, or any smoke emanating from that product, prior to or during consumption that predominates over the flavor, taste, or aroma of the tobacco” or “a distinguishable flavor, taste, or aroma other than tobacco used to advertise or market the tobacco product,” according to the Congressional Record.

But Dodd put the kibosh on any amendments to the bill Wednesday, after opposition arose over Sen. Joe Lieberman’s (ID-Conn.) amendment to the tobacco bill that would have barred disclosing photos of mistreated detainees for three years.

And that could potentially cause trouble for the Camden plant.

“This facility is not only the last of its kind in the country, but also one of the largest manufacturing plants left in the city of Camden,” Lautenberg Chief of Staff Dan Katz said. “We wanted to clarify the intent of the bill so that this plant isn’t inadvertently shuttered without a full review by the FDA.”

It’s unclear what other options the company has left other than getting Lautenberg to put in a written statement on the record to accompany that bill that would clarify the provision’s intent.

“We are applauding the Senator’s efforts to keep that plant open in his home state,” Taylor said.

The company, which has two in-house lobbyists, Evan Knisley and Elise Aronson, spent $250,000 on lobbying during the first quarter of 2009.

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