Today in Washington, the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Health Subcommittee passed H.R. 2339, a legislative bill that, if passed into law, would ban all catalog and internet sales for tobacco products, including premium cigars.
Also known as the “Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act,” H.R. 2339 is aimed at the vaping and cigarette industry, yet premium cigars have been lumped into the language of the legislation. The bill unambiguously states that all tobacco purchases, including premium cigars, would require “retail sales through a direct, face-to-face exchange between a retailer and a consumer.”
But H.R. 2339 has a few more steps before it’s passed into law. The full Committee is expected to vote on (and pass) the bill next week. After that, H.R. 2339 would go before the House for a final vote, and that timeline is unspecified. After that, it would need Senate approval.
H.R. 2339 was introduced by Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ) and Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL).
Speaking up for the premium cigar industry at the hearings, Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL) proposed an exemption, affirming that premium cigar manufacturers do not market to children.
“The FDA’s own science underscored our legislative intent,” Castor said. “FDA and FDA-funded reports found that traditional, handcrafted premium cigars are not marketed [to] or used by children in any significant way.”
Although Pallone immediately opposed the exemption, the New Jersey Democrat said he’d be open to consider her concern when the issue goes to full committee—if she withdraw her amendment.
“I oppose the gentlewoman’s amendment, but I would be open, if she would withdraw it and not vote on it at this time, to consider her concern when we go to full committee…I think we can come up with something to address the concern that you have,” Pallone said.
Castor agreed and withdrew the amendment. Now, she has about a week to convince Pallone that some degree of compromise is warranted. The language in the bill could indeed be different once it goes before the full Committee.
It should be noted that Shalala, who helped pen the bill, is also in favor of an exemption.
“We actually made a lot of progress today,” said Drew Newman, legal counsel for J.C. Newman Cigar Co. “After presenting her amendment, Rep. Castor withdrew it after receiving a commitment from Committee Chair Pallone to work on a reasonable resolution for premium cigars.”
This is a developing story. See upcoming coverage of H.R. 2339 and its potential impact on the premium cigar industry.