With a deadline to pass an appropriations bill quickly approaching in the U.S. Congress, a new ray of hope to exempt premium cigars from Food & Drug Administration (FDA) regulation has emerged.
According to sources with the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR), Congress is currently considering a provision in the agriculture/FDA portion of the appropriations bill that would prevent FDA from using any of its appropriated funds should it choose to regulate premium cigars. Since the majority of FDA’s work is funded via the appropriations bill, the impact of regulating premium cigars would be significant.
Should the appropriations bill pass with this policy rider, it would effectively remove cigars from the proposed rule that was filed with the White House Office of Management and Budget in October, what has otherwise come to be known as the deeming document, and nullify the current choice between “Option 1” and “Option 2” when it comes to FDA regulation of premium cigars.
Additionally, it would define premium cigars in the same manner that was established by H.R. 662, the Traditional Cigar Manufacturing and Small Business Jobs Preservation Act of 2015. In that bill, premium cigars are defined as having 100% tobacco with no filter, tip or non-tobacco mouthpiece and weighting at least six pounds per 1,000 cigars.
Because of the way the budgeting and appropriations process works, the current decisions about what will receive funding sits with House leadership, in particular the Speaker of the House, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., which is why his name has come up so much in the past 24 hours when it comes to regulating premium cigars.
As such, the IPCPR is asking all cigar consumers, retailers and industry personnel to make two phone calls in support of the exemption: one to Rep. Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House, and the other to the House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and say that they support the exemption for premium cigars from FDA regulation and that the exemption needs to be remain in the appropriations bill. Rep. Ryan’s office can be reached by phone at 202-225-0660, while Rep. Kevin McCarthy can be reached at 202-225-4000.
Kip Talley, senior director of federal legislative affairs for the IPCPR, told halfwheel that he expects the situation to develop quickly over the next 24 hours and it is imperative that anyone who wishes to see premium cigars exempted from FDA regulation call both Rep. Ryan and Rep. McCarthy immediately, as well as reach out to them via Twitter (@SpeakerRyan and @GOPLeader), Facebook and e-mail. He also stressed that it is important to stay on message as outlined above. He advocated against saying anything to the extent of “keep the FDA out of my humidor,” as that can lead to confusion among staffers fielding the calls.