Bill Seeks to Ban Online Cigar Sales, Flavored Cigars and Boost User Fees

Bill Seeks to Ban Online Cigar Sales, Flavored Cigars and Boost User Fees

Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. has filed a measure that aims to place a series of onerous restrictions on premium, handmade cigars, including banning all Internet cigar sales as well as making the sale of flavored cigars in any form illegal.

Titled “Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act of 2019,” the April 17 ordinance also seeks to raise the federal minimum age to legally purchase tobacco products to 21 years old, while also boosting user fees collected by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and placing stricter restrictions on how premium cigars are advertised.

Pallone Jr., a Democrat who represents New Jersey’s 6th district, introduced the bill, which “aims to address the sharp rise in use of tobacco and e-cigarette products among young people,” according to a press release.

If the bill were to pass it would severely impact the premium, handmade cigar industry, but many cigar industry members doubt it will actually become a law.

Pallone’s bill looks to ban all sales of cigars “other than retail sales through a direct, face-to-face exchange between a retailer and a consumer.” This would eliminate sales over the Internet and through catalogs, two channels that sell a large percentage of premium, handmade cigars.

The proposed legislation would also dramatically boost the total amount of user fees collected by the FDA. The agency collects user fees from six types, or classes, of tobacco companies: domestic manufacturers and importers of cigarettes, snuff, chewing tobacco, roll-your-own tobacco, pipe tobacco and cigars. Last year, the FDA increased the amount of user fees it collects from premium cigars to $80 million. Pallone’s bill would increase the amount by an estimated $100 million, mainly through e-cigarettes, a segment that doesn't currently pay any user fees.

The bill, if passed, would also impose strict regulations on premium cigar advertising and sampling. Having cigar brands appear on products such as shirts and hats would be prohibited, for example, and cigar brands would be banned from sponsoring music concerts and sporting events.