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Consumer Confidential: Menthol smokes probed, Cheerios rule, cool new stamps

June 27, 2011 | 10:08 am

Cigpic Here's your my-cherie-amour Monday roundup of consumer news from around the Web:

--The Food and Drug Administration is taking a closer look at mint-flavored menthol cigarettes, one of the few types of cancer sticks to show sales growth. The agency says members of its Center for Tobacco Products will gather menthol studies and then submit its review to an external peer review panel next month. The process is expected to be completed in the fall of 2011. The FDA says the review is meant to ensure that the "best available science is used to support regulatory and programmatic decision making." The review comes after the FDA in March received a report from the Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee concluding that removing menthol cigarettes from the market would benefit public health because the flavoring has led to an increase in smokers, particularly among teens, African Americans and those with low incomes.

 -- Which cereal rules the breakfast table? Do you really need more than one guess? It's Cheerios, which turns a forever-young 70 this year. One out of every eight boxes of cereal to leave the shelf in America carries the Cheerios name. To make Cheerios, balls of dough are heated and shot out of a "puffing gun" at hundreds of miles an hour, according to General Mills. The company's waterfront plant in Buffalo has been firing them off since 1941, often cloaking the city with a distinctive aroma and inspiring T-shirts announcing, "My city smells like Cheerios." More than 10 shapes and sizes were considered before the makers settled on little Os. Since then, the company has introduced several new flavors, starting with Honey Nut in 1979 and, last year, chocolate. In 2009, sales of Honey Nut Cheerios surpassed the original flavor for the first time and remain in the top spot today. Like you didn't know.

-- The post office is showing some props to cool design from the past. The latest set of "forever" stamps honors industrial design, with tips of the hat to the likes of Fiesta dinnerware, the Baby Brownie camera and rotary phones. Among those being celebrated are Norman Bel Geddes, who created streamlined looks for cars, trains, planes, buildings, typewriters, stoves, household furnishings and the portable radio. And don't forget Henry Dreyfuss, who designed clocks, sewing machines and vacuum cleaners, not to mention the telephone. Such folk are the unsung heroes of our consumer culture. They deserve the stampy respect.

-- David Lazarus

Photo: The FDA may crack down on menthol smokes. Credit: Jan Pitman / Getty Images