There is a new Congress, and a new bill to exempt premium cigars from regulation by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA).
Rep. Bill Posey, R-Florida, has introduced H.R. 662, the Traditional Cigar Manufacturing and Small Business Jobs Preservation Act of 2015. The text is identical to H.R. 792, another bill sponsored by Posey.
The aim is to remove “traditional large and premium cigars” from regularly control by FDA. It defines “traditional large and premium cigars” as “means any roll of tobacco that is wrapped in 100 percent leaf tobacco, bunched with 100 percent tobacco filler, contains no filter, tip or non-tobacco mouthpiece, weighs at least 6 pounds per 1,000 count.”
In addition it must either have a 100 percent tobacco leaf binder rolled by hand or placed onto a machine, or a homogenized tobacco leaf binder that is laid by hand onto a machine if the cigar is rolled in the U.S.
Posey was the sponsor of similar proposed legislation in the 112th Congress (H.R. 1639). That bill finished with 220 cosponsors, while H.R. 792 finished with 167 by the time the 113th Congress met for the final time.
According to Kip Talley, senior director of federal legislative affairs for the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR), H.R. 662 already has 34 co-sponsors, including 23 Republicans and 11 Democrats. He also expects the Senate version of the bill to be introduced this week—with similar, if not identical—text to S. 772, the accompanying piece of legislation to H.R. 792.
“IPCPR looks forward to working with our Congressional supporters to ensure the premium cigar industry and small business retailers are not negatively affected by onerous federal regulations,” said Talley in a statement to halfwheel. “This legislation is an important step to protect these businesses and we encourage all retailers, manufacturers, and consumers to contact their Members of a Congress to urge support of this bill.”
When Posey introduced the first two pieces of legislation, the FDA threat was one that had not truly materialized. That changed a little less than a year ago when FDA announced plans for its deeming regulations. In it, FDA proposed two different paths to regulating premium cigars.
Under Option One, it would regulate all cigars similar to how all tobacco products are regulated, this would include costly product compliance that would not only raise the price of cigars, but put an end to many new cigars, as well as many businesses. The FDA itself estimates that up to 50 percent of the cigar industry may not survive Option One. Under Option Two, FDA would exempt “premium cigars” based off of a definition much stricter than the one put forth in congressional legislation. Amongst the requirements for exemption: a $10 retail price, no added flavorings and only “primarily” longfiller cigars.
Public comments on the matter were accepted until last summer. At this time, FDA is reviewing the comments and is expected to put out final rulings sometime in the future, perhaps as early as this summer.
(For more information about the FDA’s proposed regulations for premium cigars, visit our microsite, halfwheel.com/fda)
Update: Added link to the bill.