There’s a new cigar-friendly bill in the U.S. House of Representatives, but it will only be useful if new rules by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) don’t go cigar smokers’ way.
The FDA is currently debating between two regulatory paths for premium cigars. Under Option 1, the FDA would treat premium cigars like most other tobacco products meaning that all products introduced after the new rules go into effect would require pre-approval by FDA before any new cigar were to come to market. But any product being marketed prior to Feb. 15, 2007 would be largely exempt from rules. Products introduced in between Feb. 15, 2007 and the day the rules went into effect would have two years to apply for approval, but would be able to stay on the market.
H.R. 2058 deals with that Feb. 15, 2007 date, pushing it back until the day that the new FDA rules go into effect. This would mean that hundreds of new brands—and dozens of newer companies—would be able to stay on the market with very minimal changes and at a significantly lower cost. It’s unknown what the cost of product applications would be, but it’s believed to be in the thousands and there’s some evidence to suggest that manufacturers would have to apply per SKU, i.e. vitola, as opposed to per blend or line.
The new bill was introduced by Rep. Tom Cole, R-Oklahoma, and it currently has four total sponsors. Earlier this year, bills were introduced in both the House and Senate that would exempt premium cigars entirely from FDA control.
Under Option Two, FDA itself would exempt “premium cigars” based off of a definition much stricter than the one put forth in congressional legislation. Among 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.
The FDA has claimed on repeated occasions that it has no power to modify the Feb. 15, 2007 date and that congressional action would be required to do so. H.R. 2058 will also receive support from the pipe tobacco and e-cigarette industries as it is not specific to cigars, meaning it would exempt a variety of products.
(For more information about the FDA’s proposed regulations for premium cigars, visit our microsite, halfwheel.com/fda)