FDA Announces Regulations Plans, Premium Cigars Might Receive Exemption

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Click here for a more complete explanation of the deeming document.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has finally announced its plans to regulate premium cigars and while it will be until July before a clear picture emerges, cigar smokers might get a big break.

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As was expected, the FDA will release its deeming document today, a roadmap for its plans to extend regulation into tobacco-derived products it currently does not regulate. According to the New York Times, this will include e-cigarettes, pipes and cigars, but there’s a very large catch—the organization is asking for public comment specifically over whether premium cigars should be exempted from its control.

In other words, the FDA is not sure if it should regulate premium cigars. It will solicit comment from the public, specifically on that manner for 75 days.

For groups like the International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR) and Cigar Rights of America (CRA), it means that the next two and a half months will likely become some of the most important in history.

Last December, Mitch Zeller, head of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, mentioned premium cigars and hinted that the category could be treated differently:

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

It’s likely that this message will be the one that industry tries to drive home with its consumers and other supporters.

As for the minutia of the deeming document and premium cigars, there were three main areas of concerns: internet sales, flavored cigars and disclosure and registration.

Until the publishing of the document, it’s unclear what changes might come to internet sales. The FDA wants to establish federal policy banning anyone under 18 from purchasing tobacco products and wants identification to be required at time of purchase.

As for flavored cigars, there was a large victory. There is nothing in the deeming document regarding flavored cigars or any other tobacco, including e-cigarettes.

It is however not all good news. The FDA has stated it believe the outlines proposed in the deeming document would be the first step in regulating flavored tobacco. Part of that comes from extending its mandates into product categories like e-cigarettes and cigars, and other parts come from new disclosure and registration requirements.

The deeming document includes a plan that would require companies to register new products with the FDA. A two-year period is being proposed as a period to allow for current products to meet compliance.

In addition, companies would have to disclose components and its manufacturing techniques. It is said that the FDA has not fully determined what this process would look like, but any change would be a gigantic shift from the status quo. Cigar makers have said the new regulations could costs tens of thousands of dollars, potentially ending the trend of limited edition and small batch cigars and most certainly raising the cost of cigars for consumers.

That being said, for premium cigar smokers, the deeming document is probably as good as any proposed regulation could be.

The fact the FDA is already opening the discussion of exemption for public comment proves that lobbying efforts from groups like the IPCPR, CRA and Cigar Association of America and others has paid off.

Most of the attention has been focused on Congress, where the industry has seen the creation of propose legislation that would exempt premium cigars from FDA control. Currently a House bill has 154 sponsors, while 15 Senators have signed on as sponsors.

Given the public comment period, groups like the IPCPR and CRA will likely now turn their attention to gathering as much public support as possible, focusing efforts on letters from retailers, consumers and other supporters as opposed to signatures from members of Congress.

Click here for a more complete explanation of the deeming document.

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Charlie Minato
About the author

I am an editor and co-founder of halfwheel.com/Rueda Media, LLC. I previously co-founded and published TheCigarFeed, one of the two predecessors of halfwheel. I handle the editing of our written content, the majority of the technical aspects of the site and work with the rest of our staff on content management, business development and more. I’ve lived in most corners of the country and now entering my second stint in Dallas, Texas. I enjoy boxing, headphones, the Le Mans 24-hour, wearing sweatshirts year-round and gyros. echte liebe.

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