Encouraging Remarks from Washington for Premium Cigars

Encouraging Remarks from Washington for Premium Cigars

Premium cigars were on the minds of policymakers at a recent House Budget Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., and the cigar lobbying groups are taking it as an encouraging sign that lawmakers are considering adjusting the FDA’s controversial cigar regulations. Or, at the very least, they are listening.

At the February 14 budget hearing on Capitol Hill, Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) raised the issue of FDA cigar regulations during his questioning of Mick Mulvaney, the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), who was testifying before the committee.

“I want to talk about an industry that has a rich history with south Florida, the cigar industry,” said Diaz-Balart. “It has been struggling in the face of excessive and burdensome regulations imposed by the FDA. It is my understanding, Mr. Director, that the FDA is currently reviewing these regulations and plans to release an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the coming months. … How is your office going to work to ensure that the FDA’s decision on the topic is supported by appropriate cost-benefit and regulatory flexibility analysis?”

Diaz-Balart’s remarks refer to FDA commissioner’s Dr. Scott Gottlieb’s announcement on July 2017 in which he said that the agency would be taking a fresh look at the treatment of premium cigars under the agency's current regulatory structure.

“We have absolute confidence the FDA is going to apply the [Trump] Administration's sort of new standard when it comes to cost-benefit analysis that we are actually going to do them, and we will actually have science and numbers behind them as opposed to the qualitative type analysis that was done by the previous administration,” Mulvaney responded. “I think one of the things you can count on with Director Gottlieb at the FDA is a much more rational approach to the process and when it comes to OIRA [Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs], our job is to make sure that is exactly what has happened. We are sort of the policy police and regulatory police to make sure the folks follow the rules at the various agencies. We don't supplement our view for theirs, we just make sure they have gone about it in the proper process."    

The OMB, which is the largest office in the executive branch, does not directly oversee the budget for the FDA. However, the OMB is tasked with assessing the quality of agency programs, policies and procedures to see if they comply with the president’s policies. In other words, at the end of the day, the OMB has the power to influence the tobacco policies of the FDA.

Both the Cigar Rights of America and the International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers association, which represent the premium cigar industry’s lobbying efforts, took Mulvaney’s remarks as a positive sign that the Trump Administration is listening to the concerns of the premium cigar industry.

“CRA and our industry allies look forward to continuing our dialogue with the [Trump] Administration and congressional advocates for the premium, handmade cigar industry,” said Glynn Loope, executive director of the Cigar Rights of America, in a statement. “Messages conveyed such as that by Con. Diaz-Balart yesterday and over the course of the last several years have worked to tell the unique, artisan message of premium cigars, and recent actions by the Administration and regulators have proven that this message is being heard.”