December 2023

As the cigar industry awaits a federal appeals court decision on the FDA’s regulation of “premium cigars,” a new resolution has emerged in the U.S. House of Representatives seeking to entirely remove FDA authority over premium cigars.

Introduced by Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., in collaboration with Cigar Rights of America (CRA), the joint resolution H.J.Res. 99 aims to redefine premium cigars and exclude them from the term “tobacco product” under FDA regulation. The criteria for a tobacco product to qualify as a premium cigar include being wrapped in whole tobacco leaf, having a 100 percent leaf tobacco binder, containing at least 50 percent long filler tobacco by weight, being handmade or hand-rolled, lacking a filter or non-tobacco tip, having no characterizing flavor other than tobacco, comprising only tobacco, water, and vegetable gum with no additional ingredients or additives, and weighing more than 6 pounds per 1,000 units.

The resolution draws upon the definition established in the lawsuit Cigar Association of America et al. v. United States Food and Drug Administration et al., as well as findings from the 2022 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) report on premium cigars.

Already gaining bipartisan support, the resolution has 10 co-sponsors from various states, representing both Democrats and Republicans. It has been referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce for further consideration.

If passed, this resolution would remove FDA jurisdiction over premium cigars, exempting them from the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which granted FDA authority over tobacco product regulation. Premium cigars would then fall under the oversight of Congress. Although passing as a standalone bill might be challenging, industry advocates believe that such resolutions facilitate engagement with Congress on the subject of premium cigar regulation. Currently, cigars meeting the “premium cigar” definition are not subject to FDA’s 2016 deeming regulations due to the Cigar Association of America decision, which the Department of Justice is appealing.

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