There’s a new Congress, a new house Bill regarding premium cigar regulation and a new bill in the Senate. Again.
Yesterday, Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., introduced S.294, a bill that would exempt premium cigars from regulation by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Nelson has previously sponsored S.1461, S.772 and S.441, which was introduced in the previous Senate.
The bill is identical to S. 441, meaning it defines premium cigar as one 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, and:
- has a 100 percent leaf tobacco binder and is hand rolled;
- has a 100 percent leaf tobacco binder and is made using human hands to lay the leaf tobacco wrapper or binder onto only one machine that bunches, wraps, and caps each individual cigar; or
- has a homogenized tobacco leaf binder and is made in the United States using human hands to lay the 100
percent leaf tobacco wrapper onto only one machine that bunches, wraps, and caps each individual cigar;
- does not include a cigarette (as such term is defined by section 900(3)) or a little cigar (as such term is defined by
This is the same definition as H.R.564, the bill that was introduced in the House of Representatives last month.
S.441, the bill from the last congress, had 22 total sponsors by the end of the congressional calendar. S.294 will begin with 10 total sponsors:
- Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.
- Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.
- Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark.
- Sen. Robert Casey, D-Penn.
- Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mt.
- Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo.
- Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev.
- Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii
- Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.
- Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mt.
Neither the House nor Senate bill are expected to actually pass. The bills serve as an opportunity for the cigar industry to explain its uniqueness to members of Congress. The support from legislators is then used to show the executive branch—either FDA itself or the White House—that there is congressional support for the exemption.
The most likely scenario for actual action in Congress is by adding language to bills that fund FDA. The standalone bills are also used to further those efforts.