It looks like politicians with opposing views can compromise after all. A bill that sought to ban Internet and catalog sales of all tobacco products now has an exemption for premium cigars.
Officially called the “Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act,” H.R. 2339 passed a House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Health Subcommittee vote last week. The bill, among other things, would have prohibited the sale of all tobacco products outside of direct, face-to-face transactions. This would have effectively obliterated catalog and Internet businesses that sell premium cigars.
When Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL) proposed an amendment to exempt premium cigars during the hearing, Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ) immediately opposed the amendment, but vowed to work with her on the bill’s language if Castor agreed to withdraw her amendment. Castor withdrew and Pallone kept his word. Earlier today, H.R. 2339 passed the House Energy and Commerce Committee with an exemption for premium cigars.
"Today is a huge step forward for the premium cigar industry,” said Drew Newman, general counsel of J.C. Newman Cigar Co. "This afternoon the health committee of the U.S. House of Representatives voted to treat premium cigars differently from mass-market tobacco products.”
There is, however, a catch. The definition of premium cigars in this bill is defined as having a retail price of no less than $12. Such a pricing structure would only cover a portion of the premium cigar industry.
“Although today’s vote is significant progress towards saving America’s historic premium cigar industry, we still have more work to do," added Newman. "A minimum price of $12 per cigar is problematic, particularly since the price of premium cigars varies greatly across the country due to different state tax rates. Additionally, FDA’s own data shows that fewer than 25 percent of premium cigars are sold for more than $10.”
The bill still has a few more legislative steps to go before it’s signed into law. First, it must pass the House, and then, the Senate.