A bipartisan group of lawmakers, all of whom voted for the Tobacco Control Act in 2009, have come out in support of an exemption for handmade cigars. In a letter addressed to FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb, 13 members of Congress expressed concern over the agency’s decision to regulate handmade cigars, as they do not believe it is “consistent with the intent of the Tobacco Control Act.”
The letter, dated July 23—just two days before the FDA’s commenting period deadline—was signed by members of the 111th United States Congress, which was active between January 3, 2009 and January 3, 2011. During this time it passed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, the bill that gave the U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulatory control over the U.S. tobacco industry. The FDA did not announce its intention to regulate handmade cigars until 2016, an action that did not require further legislation.
Now, 13 members of Congress who helped give the FDA the authority to make this decision are saying that regulating handmade cigars would not advance the agenda of the Tobacco Control Act.
"Specifically as to Congressional intent, throughout the findings section of the law, two themes are clear: preventing underage access to tobacco products and mitigating the health effects of habitual consumption of addictive tobacco products,” the letter says. "We continue to strongly support these goals and recognize the critical progress FDA's actions have made in advancing the public health. However, we do not believe applying the agencies current regulatory regime to premium cigars as described above is consistent with the intent of the Tobacco Control Act."
The list was signed by a coalition of eight Democrats and five Republicans:
- U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL)
- U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL)
- U.S. Rep. Gus M. Bilirakis (R-FL)
- U.S. Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL)
- U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI)
- U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT)
- U.S. Rep. Wm. Lacy Clay (D-MO)
- U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL)
- U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX)
- U.S. Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL)
- U.S. Rep. Robert A. Brady (D-PA)
- U.S. Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV)
- U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ)
The letter also expresses support of the Traditional Cigar Manufacturing and Small Business Jobs Preservation Act and its definition of premium cigars, which they believe is “grounded in a rational basis and is accepted widely.”