Brazil: Flavoured Tobacco Products Banned After Long Court Battle

5 February 2018:

On 1 February, Brazil’s Supreme Federal Court ruled that the Brazilian Health Regulatory Agency (ANVISA) has the power to regulate the tobacco industry. This ruling upholds a 2012 ANVISA regulation banning the use of flavors and additives in tobacco products sold in Brazil. This landmark decision will end the sale of flavored tobacco products in Brazil.

In 2012, Brazil became the first country in the world to ban the use of flavors and additives in tobacco products, including menthol. However, the implementation of this regulation was stalled because the tobacco industry, including its lobby group, Sinditabaco, sued ANVISA to block it.

The tobacco industry uses flavored tobacco products – including menthol and fruit flavors – to lure young customers, including children, into a life of tobacco addiction. While the tobacco industry’s lawsuit was pending, Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco flooded the Brazilian market with flavored cigarettes.  A study found more than 80 percent of tobacco retailers near schools in Rio de Janeiro sold flavored cigarettes with flashy packages and enticing descriptors like “Double Mint Purple” which appeal to young consumers.

In the ASEAN region, a variety of flavoured cigarettes have been sold including fruit flavours, chocolate and mint. In Indonesia for example, flavoured cigarettes such as Djarum Chokolat, Djarum Black Cappuccino and Esse Berry Pop have been in the market. See here for other examples.

Tobacco companies sell cigarettes with clickable flavoured capsules imbedded in the filter. See image below. In Indonesia, KT&G sold Esse Shuffle Pop which came in 5 different flavours in 1 pack of cigarettes. This way, 1 cigarette can release flavours such as orangemint, applemint, caramelmint, mangomint or berrymint when the smoker pops the capsule.

Sample of clickable capsules imbedded in the filter which release the flavour

To hide or detract from the real harms caused by of smoking, mint flavour is usually promoted in green or blue packs using descriptive language such as “fresh”, “cool” and “smooth”. Such gimmicks would be appealing to adolescents to experiment. A study done in the US found flavour capsule variety (FCVs) generated greater appeal among young adolescents to try smoking.

Besides flavours, tobacco companies use a plethora of other additives to make smoking palatable and these remain unknown to smokers. About 600 additives have been identified being added to tobacco in the manufacturing of cigarettes in the US.

Brazil’s victory should encourage other countries to move forward to ban use of flavors and additives in tobacco.

According to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the legal tactics employed in Brazil by the major tobacco companies to delay implementation of the ban on flavored tobacco products are part of a global pattern of litigation and intimidation tactics used by tobacco companies to delay and block laws designed to reduce tobacco use.