December 2023

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has outlined the procedural timeline for the next phase of the protracted legal battle between the Cigar Association of America and other industry groups against the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This legal saga, known as Cigar Association of America et al. v. United States Food and Drug Administration et al., has spanned seven years, and the recent developments stem from a ruling in August by Judge Amit P. Mehta in favour of the cigar trade groups. However, the Department of Justice, acting on behalf of the FDA in legal matters, has lodged an appeal against this decision.

The Appeals Court has established specific deadlines for the submission of legal documents, with the Appellants’ Brief and Appendix due on January 16, 2024, followed by the Appellee’s Brief on February 15, 2024, and the Appellants’ Reply Brief on March 7, 2024. Importantly, these dates pertain solely to the submission of paperwork, with no indication of when the actual court proceedings will take place before a three-judge panel.

Judge Mehta’s ruling in August 2023 was a pivotal moment in the case, as it not only favoured the cigar groups but also determined the remedy for the situation. In July 2022, Judge Mehta had already concluded that the FDA had erred in its approach to regulating premium cigars, emphasizing that the agency had overlooked significant comments indicating that larger, unflavoured premium cigars were distinct in usage from their smaller, often flavoured counterparts.

After more than seven years of legal wrangling, Judge Mehta decided to vacate the rule for cigars meeting the definition of “premium cigars.” Consequently, such cigars were exempted from the FDA’s deeming regulations, which encompassed testing requirements, user fees, and restrictions on distributing cigars for retail promotions or charitable donations.

It’s noteworthy that the Department of Justice has not sought any injunction, implying that cigars falling under the classification of “premium cigars” remain unaffected by the aforementioned regulations. As the legal proceedings unfold, the industry awaits the resolution of this long-standing dispute, which has far-reaching implications for the regulatory landscape surrounding premium cigars in the United States

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