SMOKED OUT: Tobacco companies have introduced almost no new cigarettes or smokeless tobacco products in the U.S. in more than 18 months because the federal government has prevented them from doing so, the Associated Press has found. It's an unprecedented pause for an industry that introduces dozens of new products annually, and reflects its increasingly uneasy relationship with the Food and Drug Administration, which in 2009 began regulating tobacco.
TWO VIEWS: The FDA says applications for new products have languished in part because the agency is taking extra care in reviewing products that pose public health risks. Industry executives say cigarettes haven't changed in any meaningful way and the delays don't make sense. They say the changes are as simple as a brand name change, cigarette filters or, in some cases, different packaging.
BOTTLE NECK: The reviews, which are supposed to take 90 days, have dragged on for years in some cases. About 90 percent of applications have lingered for more than a year.