Cigar Aficionado

Bill With FDA Premium Exemption Language Passes House Subcommittee

Bill With FDA Premium Exemption Language Passes House Subcommittee

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture yesterday advanced legislation that includes a rider exempting premium cigars from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's regulation, as well as other cigar-friendly language. But many obstacles stand in the way of the bill becoming law.

The fiscal year 2018 Agriculture Appropriations bill draft, which establishes the FDA's annual budget and was passed by the Subcommittee yesterday via a voice vote, includes language that blocks the FDA from using any of its funding to regulate "traditional large and premium cigars." According to the bill draft, these type of cigars are defined as:

Any roll of tobacco that is wrapped in 100 percent leaf tobacco, bunched with 100 percent tobacco filler, contains no filter, tip or non-tobacco mouthpiece, weighs at least 6 pounds per 1,000 count, and—

(A) has a 100 percent leaf tobacco binder and is hand rolled;
(B) has a 100 percent leaf tobacco binder and is made using human hands to lay the leaf tobacco wrapper or binder onto only one machine that bunches, wraps and caps each individual cigar; or
(C) has a homogenized tobacco leaf binder and is made in the United States using human hands to lay the 100 percent leaf tobacco wrapper onto only one machine that bunches, wraps and caps each individual cigar; and is not a cigarette or a little cigar.

The bill draft also includes a rider that changes the predicate date from February 15, 2007, to August 8, 2016, or the day that the FDA's deeming regulation on cigars officially took effect. Cigarmakers view the predicate date as one of the most controversial regulations enforced by the FDA because it requires them to file new product applications with the agency and undergo an arduous, expensive approval process for any product that wasn't on the market prior to February 15, 2007.

Some may recognize the cigar-friendly provisions as similar to the language included in H.R. 1136 and H.R. 564, two bills that were introduced earlier this year.

If passed as is, the draft bill would be a positive turn in the fight to prevent the FDA from regulating premium cigars. The cigar-friendly riders, however, will face much scrutiny as the draft bill must now pass through the full Appropriations Committee, followed by consideration and passage by the full House of Representatives. Then, the bill must be conferenced and compared with the Senate's yet-to-be introduced legislation.