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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Philip Morris International joined with U.S. tobacco industry groups on Thursday to ask President Barack Obama's administration to challenge Canada's new law banning flavored cigarettes and small cigars.
Their request comes even as the administration takes its own steps to ban candy, clove and other flavored cigarettes.
"Canada's ban on blended cigarettes violates its WTO (World Trade Organization) obligations and could impose serious economic hardship on U.S. growers of burley tobacco," Roger Quarles, president of the Burley Tobacco Growers Cooperative Association, said in a statement.
"We are asking USTR (U.S. Trade Representative) to review our arguments and to take a strong stand for U.S. burley growers and American jobs," he said.
Philip Morris, which markets its tobacco products in approximately 160 countries, joined the burley growers and several other tobacco associations in asking USTR to press Canada on the issue at a WTO meeting on "technical" trade barriers next week in Geneva.
Canada's new law banning the manufacture, importation and sale of most flavored cigarettes and small cigars went into effect earlier this month.
Anti-smoking groups said the fruit-flavored cigarettes were marketed like candy to lure young smokers, but the industry complained the law was too broad and would unfairly restrict importation of U.S.-grown burley tobacco.
Aiming to pressure the Obama administration to take up the issue, Republican Senator Jim Bunning from the tobacco-growing state of Kentucky has blocked the six-month-old nomination of Miriam Sapiro as deputy U.S. trade representative.
A spokeswoman for USTR was not immediately available on Thursday to comment on the issue.
The U.S. tobacco groups said they support the goal of banning candy-flavored cigarettes. But they said Canada could have done that without discriminating against American blend cigarettes by following the model recently set by the United States, France and Australia.
The Obama administration has given no indication publicly that it would press Canada on the issue.
Obama, who has said he began smoking as a teenager and struggled as an adult to give it up, signed a law in June giving the U.S. government broad regulatory power for the first time over cigarettes and other tobacco products.
Last month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration used the new authority to implement a ban on candy, clove and other flavored cigarettes. Neither the U.S. or the Canadian ban includes menthol-flavored cigarettes.
Clove cigarettes come mainly from Indonesia, where they originated in the late 1800s.
Reporting by Doug Palmer; Editing by Will Dunham