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FTC orders cigar firms to report on sales, ads

The Federal Trade Commission Monday ordered the nation's five leading cigar manufacturers to file financial reports detailing their sales and advertising expenses over the past two years.

The order requires each manufacturer to report the total number of cigars sold and the amount spent on advertising, merchandising and promotion in 1996 and 1997. It also requires a categorical breakdown of advertising and marketing expenses for each cigar brand marketed, including any money paid to motion pictures that featured the products.The FTC already requires the manufacturers of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco to submit similar financial information.

The orders will affect Swisher International Group Inc., of Darien, Conn.; Consolidated Cigar Co., of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; General Cigar Co., of Bloomfield, Conn.; Havatampa Inc., of Tampa, Fla.; and John Middleton Inc., of King of Prussia, Pa.

The companies have until April 9 to file the reports. The move could eventually lead the agency to require manufacturers to place health warning in all advertisements.

The popularity of cigars has increased in recent years, particularly among young people.

"Studies of cigar marketing show strong increases in cigar sales and raise concerns about increasing use of cigars by high school students 14 to 19 years old," the FTC said in a statement.

The agency also expressed concern about a perception that cigar smoking is not harmful if the smoker does not inhale.

According to the American Lung Association, cigar smokers are four to 10 times more likely to die from cancer of the mouth, larynx and esophagus than nonsmokers. They are also at greater risk of lung cancer.