When the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a 30-day extension to the comment period regarding the proposed regulation of cigars, e-cigarettes, pipe and shisha tobacco, the agency said very little on its reasonings behind doing so. In fact, it said essentially nothing other than that the comment period had been extended.
While it was by no means a victory for the anti-tobacco groups in favor of the strictest interpretation of the deeming regulations, the 30-day extension is pretty much just that, an extension. That said, here’s a few takeaways
1. THE IPCPR IS THE BIG WINNER
If there was any winner in this news it was the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailer Association (IPCPR). The new closing date now falls on Aug. 8, a few weeks after the annual IPCPR convention and trade show, which takes place July 19-23. The IPCPR—and others—had hoped that it would be able to extend the comment period beyond the trade show so that it could communicate with its members (retailers) in a face-to-face setting. This now is able to happen.
Groups like Cigar Rights of America (CRA) and the Cigar Association of America (CAA) will also benefit, although the latter will likely be more indirectly.
2. THERE WILL BE MORE EXTENSION REQUESTS
Many of the aforementioned groups originally requested lengthier extensions. Despite the 30-day extension, it is expected that most of these groups will immediately request additional extensions. For example, the IPCPR originally requested a 75-day extension, it will now likely seek a 45-day extension on top of the already granted 30 days.
And that’s just in relation to premium cigars, the e-cigarette lobby, which many times is more organized and vocal than the premium cigar groups, will undoubtedly continue to request extensions.
3. IT MAY NOT DELAY THE REGULATIONS AT ALL
Before FDA implements any sort of new regulations it must complete the public comment period. That not only includes allowing public feedback—what’s happening right now—but also responding to these comments. The agency will likely separate the thousands of submissions into various topics, i.e. are flavored cigars ‘premium cigars,’ should ‘premium cigars’ be exempt, should the cost for approval be different based on the product type, etc.
As such, it was unlikely the agency was going to be in a position to act on July 10, the day after the original 75-day comment period closed, and it was particularly unlikely it was going to be able to act on all parts of the deeming document. While the comment period extension will increase the amount of comments, it should not be looked at as any huge victory in delay. The truth of the matter is that it’s always been unclear when FDA would actually be able to introduce new laws. This does not change that in anyway.
4. IT IS AN OPPORTUNITY NOT TO BE WASTED
There’s no question the cigar industry has been slow at reacting to FDA legislation. After over two-thirds of the original comment period expired, the IPCPR, CRA and CAA have still not created a uniform definition of what a “premium cigar” is, despite its incredible importance. And that’s just the start of the cigar industry’s issues when it comes to quickly educating and responding.
An extension of the comment period gives more time for the industry to get its efforts out, particularly in the retailer-consumer dynamic, which is where we believe the industry can best focus its efforts to add to the already 34,000 submitted comments.
To learn more about the proposed regulation of premium cigars and its grave impact, click here.