Photo of man hand rolling cigaretteFederal regulators ordered four tobacco products off the market Friday, the first time the Food and Drug Administration has taken such an action since it was given regulatory authority in 2009.

The FDA ordered Jash International Inc. to stop selling four Sutra-branded cigarettes called bidis, which are thin, hand-rolled cigarettes filled with tobacco and wrapped in leaves from a tendu tree and tied with string.

Mitch Zeller, the director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, said Jash failed to provide adequate information to allow the products to stay on the market, adding that the agency’s action was an important step in the history of tobacco regulation.

“We join all Americans concerned about the health of this country in celebrating this historic FDA action today, and we look forward to additional steps that continue to crack down on tobacco products that kill so many Americans,” said Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association, which actively seeks restrictions on tobacco sales. “This and more bold action from the FDA will save millions of people from heart disease and stroke, not to mention the many other health problems caused by tobacco use.”

The Associated Press reported that a Jash company representative said the four products, Sutra Bidis Red, Sutra Bidis Menthol, Sutra Bidis Red Cone, and Sutra Bidis Menthol Cone, haven’t been sold since 2010 when the FDA banned flavored tobacco products. A request for comment from Jash, based in East Dundee, Ill., was not returned to the American Heart Association.

The government’s decision to act was hailed by health organizations opposed to tobacco.

“The significance of today’s decision isn’t the specific products,” said Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

What is important, he said, is “the fact that the FDA has finally begun to set the necessary precedent for pulling products that are currently being sold off the market when a manufacturer fails to show that changes made to the product after February 2007 do not raise different questions of public health.”

The American Heart Association and other leading health organizations are committed to reducing the adult smoking rate to less than 10 percent in the next decade and eliminating exposure to secondhand smoke in the next five years.

Smoking is still the nation’s No. 1 cause of death, killing 443,000 Americans and costing the nation $193 billion in health care expenses and lost productivity each year.

The news comes shortly after the 50-year anniversary of the U.S. Surgeon General’s hallmark report detailing the dangers of smoking.

“Since 1964, the American Heart Association’s commitment to reducing the toll of tobacco has not wavered,” Mariell Jessup, M.D., president of the American Heart Association and Professor of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania’s Heart and Vascular Center told a gathering in Washington, D.C. “The reasons for this could not be clearer. A person who smokes is two to four times more likely to develop coronary heart disease than a nonsmoker. Cigarette smoking doubles a person’s risk for stroke. And thirty percent of all heart disease and strokes is caused by smoking.”

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