The cigar industry gained breathing room today as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration extended the deadline for cigar product testing, which was originally scheduled for November 8. The new deadline will now be six months from when the FDA releases testing guidelines, which has yet to occur. Smaller cigarmakers will be given three additional months to test.
The testing for the FDA was known as HPHC reporting, or testing for harmful and potentially harmful constituents. In a statement posted on its website this evening, the Cigar Rights of America called the previous deadline “a huge problem because the technology for testing premium cigars does not exist, and the FDA had provided no rule saying how it was supposed to be accomplished for cigars and pipe tobacco.”
“Today's significant action by the FDA in extending the deadline for HPHC reporting, for the time being, removes a cloud lingering over the premium cigar industry,” Glynn Loope, executive director of the CRA, added.
The idea of testing handmade cigars in any fashion is one that doesn’t sit well with cigarmakers. “At the end of the day there’s no meaningful test that’s reliable,” said Rocky Patel, owner of Rocky Patel Premium Cigars. “There’s no machine out there, with credibility that can give you a reliable outcome. … At the end of the day the whole thing needs to be relooked at and reexamined. It just doesn’t make any sense. There’s no way to test premium cigars in a reliable manner."
Drew Newman, general counsel for J.C. Newman Cigar, also sees flaws with premium, handmade cigar testing. “Although we will await FDA’s guidance, I remain very skeptical about whether it is possible to reliably test premium cigars because making premium cigars is an inherently unscientific process.
“Because premium cigars are handcrafted, they are subject to great natural variation. We know that the amount of sunlight, rain and wind affects the characteristics of premium cigar tobacco just as the size of tobacco leaves and where they are grown on a plant does as well. As cigarmakers, we harness this natural variation to create unique and interesting blends.”
Scott Pearce, executive director of the IPCPR, said in a statement that his organization “is pleased that we now have some clarity and the uncertainty, for this looming deadline has been addressed. Our retail members can now operate their businesses with more confidence about the future."
The CRA and IPCPR both said there is no indication that FDA guidance will be released this year, making it possible that testing wouldn’t be required until mid-2020 at the soonest.
For more on the FDA, see: FDA Testing Of Cigars: What Does It Mean, What Will It Cost?