The FDA's authority to regulate premium cigars was established in 2009 when Congress passed the Family Smoking Prevention And Tobacco Control Act. The law allowed the FDA to take authority over products that are “made or derived from tobacco.” This includes premium cigars, pipes, hookah and e-cigarettes.
In 2010, the FDA announced its intent to regulate cigars under its newly found authority. In response, groups like the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR), Cigar Rights of America (CRA) and Cigar Association of America (CAA) began efforts to combat this potential regulation.
This took shape in bills such as H.R. 1639 and S. 1461 that sought to exempt premium cigars from the control of the FDA, although both failed to gain enough support to pass before the 112th Congress finished their term. Both were reintroduced in the 113th Congress but remain shy of having enough support to achieve passage.
In addition, action was taken at the executive level with a We The People petition to the White House that garnered 40,000 signatures. Over two years later, the White House responded with a letter from Mitch Zeller, the director of the FDA's CTP, inviting more public comment over the recent deeming regulations.
Many people, including premium cigar supporters, have been plagued by the FDA's slow course of action on the issue. Last year, it seemed clear the FDA was picking up speed on its intention to introduce new regulations.
While Zeller was overly noncommittal, his brief statements were a foreshadowing of what was to come: the agency would go after a variety of products with a substantial focus on e-cigarettes. For premium cigars, the lobbying efforts of industry groups had imparted at least a minor effect—the FDA had heard loud and clear that premium cigars are purchased by adults, used by adults and not marketed towards children.
Late last month, various industry groups—as well as those representing the e-cigarette industry—indicated they expected the FDA's deeming regulations to be announced. On April 24, the agency did so with new rules that would affect cigars, e-cigarettes, pipes and hookahs; as well as a few new broad tobacco regulations.