House Committee Supports Premium Cigar Exemption in New Agriculture Bill

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The House Appropriations Committee passed the fiscal year 2015 Agriculture Apprpriations bill, which included language in support of the premium cigar industry in the bill report

It might come as a surprise as to why a domestic agriculture bill would have anything to do with potential regulation of premium cigars by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), but the bill actually serves as the appropriations bill for the FDA’s budget for 2015. The FDA has been appropriate just under $2.6 billion, $566 million of which is slated for tobacco.

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On page 60, the committee stated its thoughts on the potential regulation of premium cigars by the FDA, indicating that it supported an exemption.

It went on further to argue that the Tobacco Control Act, the 2009 law passed by Congress that gave FDA authority to regulate products like premium cigars, was likely not intended to cover premium cigars because the products are not marketed towards minors.

The full statement reads as follows:

Deeming Regulations.—The Committee is encouraged that FDA has provided options for a way forward on distinguishing between premium cigars and other tobacco products in its recently proposed rule ‘‘Deeming Tobacco Products To Be Subject to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, as Amended by the Family Smoking Pre- vention and Tobacco Control Act; Regulations on the Sale and Distribution of Tobacco Products and Required Warning Statements for Tobacco Products’’ (Docket No. FDA–2014–N–0189). In particular, the Committee notes that FDA is considering excluding premium cigars from the scope of this proposed rule through Option 2. The Committee believes this could be a viable solution, given that the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act makes little mention of cigars throughout the legislation, and there is even less evidence that Congress intended to focus on the unique subset of premium cigars. The Committee notes that premium cigars are shown to be distinct from other tobacco products in their effects on youth initiation, the frequency of their use by youth and young adults, and other such behavioral and economic factors.

In April, the FDA announced potential deeming regulations. In the proposed rules, two options are being considered: one that would subject all cigars to regulation (Option 1) and one that would exempt “premium cigars” from FDA regulation (Option 2)

A 75-day comment period has been established for the FDA to solicit feedback over the pending regulations. That comment period will close on July 9, although earlier today the FDA indicated it was considering extending the period.

According to the FDA’s own estimates, regulation could remove up to half of the handmade cigars from the market and cost the premium cigar industry $100-300 million over the next two decades.

In addition to premium cigars, other types of cigars, pipe tobacco, e-cigarettes and hookah and shisha tobacco are targeted under the new rules. Premium cigars were the only category where the FDA asked the public to consider an exemption.

Earlier this month, we launched halfwheel.com/fda, a microsite dedicated to explaining the FDA regulation issue.

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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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