Premium Cigar Exemption, Predicate Date Change Included in FY 2019 Agriculture Appropriations Bill

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Congress will once again take up the issue of whether to reverse or modify regulations from premium cigars, though this time the strategy is a bit different.

Today, the House Appropriations Committee approved an amendment to the FY 2019 Agriculture Appropriations Bill that would benefit cigars. Like past agriculture appropriations bills, it includes language that would both change the grandfather (predicate) for cigars and other tobacco products regulated by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), as well as exempt premium cigars from FDA control.

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What’s different, is this time the language is included as one provision instead of two separate amendments.

An agreement by the Cigar Association of America (CAA), Cigar Rights of America (CRA) and the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR) was reached to try to create a single amendment in hopes that it survives in the Senate, something neither provision has been able to do.

The amendment would exempt cigars defined as “premium” from FDA regulations, as well as change the predicate date to Feb. 15, 2007 to April 25, 2014, the latter is the date by which FDA formally announced a draft of its deeming regulations. Previous efforts have tried to change the predicate date to Aug. 8, 2016, the date the deeming regulations went into effect.

It also includes tougher language on vapor and e-cigarette products, including requirements for online age verification, banning the use of vapor products in schools and the funding of a $50 million awareness campaign.

“We put it together as one package, we believe if we keep everything in the same package we believe we might have somewhat of a better chance (of passing),” said Joe Augustus, svp of government affairs for Swisher International, to halfwheel. Augustus said that this year’s amendment has the support of both Swisher, the world’s largest cigar manufacturer, and Altria, the world second largest tobacco company.

Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, tweeted support for the measure earlier.

As of publishing, the Appropriations Committee has not passed the actual text of the bill, but it is likely within the coming hours.

The news comes one day after a Washington D.C. court ruled against changing regulations for premium cigars.

As for the next steps in Congress, it will likely be a few months. Last year, the House of Representatives passed its spending bill in September, but it wasn’t until March before a full spending bill was agreed upon by both chambers. In years prior, Congress was able to pass its large spending bill—known as an omnibus—in December.

The cigar language needs support in the Senate, something all parties hope is improved upon now with a singular amendment.

halfwheel has obtained analysis that explains the amendment.

Craig Williamson, president of CAA, stated:

We believe our industry speaks best as one voice. Industry stakeholders have come together to work on this year’s Cole-Bishop amendment as part of a unified effort. We appreciate the Committee’s attention to this matter, which is critically important to the cigar industry… after working on two separate amendments for the past four years the groups realized that we are stronger working together to accomplish the same goal – the protection of the entire cigar industry.

Glynn Loope, executive director of CRA, stated:

This amendment once again sends a clear message that the regulations advanced by the FDA go well beyond the congressional intent of the Tobacco Control Act. We extend our appreciation to our legislative co-sponsors that have served as champions for this language, as well as proponents of regulatory reform as it applies to cigars with the President’s Administration.

Scott Pearce, executive director of IPCPR, stated:

I think we’ve seen broad recognition on and off Capitol Hill that FDA’s regulatory regime for premium cigars has been deeply flawed since it was introduced four years ago,” said Pearce. “IPCPR and CRA applaud Congressmen Cole, Bishop and all of our supporters on Capitol Hill for finding a sensible legislative solution that provides premium tobacconists and manufacturers certainty. Congress never intended for the premium industry to endure the regulatory burdens imposed by the FDA. Today’s vote reinforces that.

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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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