December 2014

FDA Update: Support on the Congressional Front

Early this year, the news hit that the FDA is seeking to extend its control over tobacco products. If the FDA is granted this control, it will have a great deal of regulatory power over product packaging, marketing, outreach, and more. And if those products were to include premium cigars, that would mean an end to the beautiful packaging that we have come to expect on our premium cigar boxes. Artwork would be replaced by warnings (you can see an example here…), all of this in the name of preventing America’s youth from indulging in tobacco.

Of course, as you and I both know, cigars are hardly a “gateway” drug for a lot of teens, who are far more likely to go and pick up a cheap box of cigarettes than an expensive premium stogie. It would be insane for the FDA to impose the same restrictions over the cigar industry—which is focused on quality and artistry, not on volume of sales or addicting America’s youth.

If you have been following the situation, you know that a congressional committee proposed early on that premium cigars be excluded from these changes. The FDA opened up a comment period, and a lot of cigar activists reached out with their concerns and opinions (including, I’m guessing, a number of readers here on this site).

So what’s the news? It’s good news, because it looks like Congress is hearing us. In the recently introduced “CRomnibus” budget package, the premium cigar industry was discussed as follows:

“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 Prevention 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.”

So it looks like Congress at least is starting to understand that premium cigars should not be included in the new act, because premium cigars have nothing to do with indoctrinating America’s youth into tobacco culture. This is a very good sign that we are winning the war against proposed tyrannical legislation that would hurt the industry and the community.

It is important though to know that the fight is not yet won, and that the 114th Congress is going to be sworn in on January 6th, and that is going to mean a whole new slew of changes. While the current Congress appears to support the premium cigar industry and community, we will be faced with the challenge of reaching out to a new group of state officials. Our voices are going to be more important than ever. So keep checking back for more updates as we head into 2015 (you can join Cigar Rights of America to support the cause and get the latest updates in real-time), and remember to keep writing your senators and representatives, and continue to reach out directly to the FDA. If we stay the course, we can win this one!

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