The U.S. Food and Drug Administration wanted to place oversized warning labels on premium cigar packaging when it published its Final Deeming Rule four years ago, but earlier today a judge based in Washington D.C. struck down the agency’s plan.
“The Deeming Rule’s warning requirements for premium cigars is hereby vacated, and this portion of the Rule is remanded to the agency for further proceedings consistent with this Memorandum Opinion,” wrote U.S. District Judge Amit P. Mehta in his opinion filed this morning in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
Mehta defended his decision by pointing to evidence that “premium cigars have different usage patterns than other cigar and tobacco products, they are almost never used by youth, and they are instead used by older, higher income, and better educated consumers.”
When the Final Deeming Rule was published in 2016, one of the major mandates outlined by the FDA was requiring premium cigar companies to place health warnings that cover at least 30 percent of the cigar box—much larger than what was previously required.
The FDA’s warning label scheme has been challenged in two separate lawsuits, one called Cigar Association of America, et al. v. U.S. Food and Drug Administration, et al., filed in Washington D.C., and the other En Fuego Tobacco Shop LLC, et al. v. U.S. Food and Drug Administration, et al., filed in Texas. Two years ago, the Texas lawsuit was transferred to Washington D.C. so that Judge Mehta could decide both cases.
Today’s decision means that Judge Mehta viewed the FDA warning label requirements as illegal, and decided the rules are null and void. The issue has been sent back to the FDA to define what a premium cigar exactly is.
The FDA may opt to appeal Mehta’s decision, but as of now the agency’s plan is undefined.