Last week, Mitch Zeller, the director of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Center for Tobacco Products (CTP), spoke on a variety of potential regulations, including speaking specifically regarding premium cigars. In an FDA webinar, Zeller laid out in broad terms his plans since taking over the agency in March 2013, but failed to put timelines on most potential regulation. He did however provide some indication that the FDA might be taking to the message set forth by various cigar industry trade groups, largely: children do not purchase premium cigars.
“Our overall goal is for a country that is free of tobacco-related disease and death,” said Zeller. “The tools that we have in this law are going to help product regulation contribute to a comprehensive national tobacco control effort to achieve that effort.”
As for premium cigars, Zeller acknowledged that it was part of a group of potential products the agency currently does not regulate, but is looking at regulating, something that will be announced in a so-called “deeming document.” In short, Zeller said the agency would announce its plans at some point in the future and then allow for public and industry discussion over the proposed plans.
On premium cigars, Zeller said:
There’s one thing that I do want to add, especially about the so-called ‘premium cigar’ category. I have had a lot of meetings with a lot of parties from public health and consumer groups to various sectors of the tobacco industry including representatives of the premium cigar industry.
The message that the premium cigar interests have tried to deliver is that there are differences between products that sell for upwards of eight, nine, 10, 11 dollars a piece and are not sold in packages, kept in special climate-controlled facilities and that the consumer—and they say it’s only adult consumers—come and buy one, two, three at a time. So, we have gotten the messages that there maybe differences when it comes to premium cigars versus other cigars and the message is that FDA needs to take that into account into figuring out how they should be regulated
If cigars are included in the deeming document than all interested parties will have an opportunity to see how we propose to regulate them, what questions we pose and we will very seriously consider any information that is put on the record.
Zeller spent the vast majority of the hour-long webinar talking about three subjects: cigarettes, electronic cigarettes and a 2014 advertising campaign aimed at preventing underage smoking. He gave no date for the deeming documents publishing or when its potential regulations could take effect.
The FDA’s jurisdiction over premium cigars became a possibility after the passing of the Tobacco Control Act, a 2009 law in which Congress gave FDA broad enforcement over tobacco products.
The webinar can be viewed in its entirety here.