The premium cigar industry is making yet another attempt to seek relief from FDA regulation by means of legislation. Earlier today, the House Appropriations Committee voted to include language in the Agriculture and Rural Development Appropriations Bill that, if passed in its current form, would exempt premium cigars from the FDA’s Final Deeming Rule.
The additional provision was introduced by Reps. Tom Cole (R-OK) and Sanford Bishop (D-GA), and was approved by a vote of 29 to 20. The premium exemption language is nearly identical to a rider that was added to last year’s fiscal budget, but was not included in the final version.
Nonetheless, cigar industry advocates are optimistic about the provision added to the 2019 budget. A joint statement released today by the three leading cigar industry lobbying organizations—the Cigar Association of America, International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers association and the Cigar Rights of America—said the inclusion was “proof positive these concerns are not only heard, but validated.”
Specifically, the additional provision would prohibit the FDA from using any of its appropriations in the 2019 budget to “implement, administer, or enforce” any of the agency’s proposed regulations on “large cigars.”
According to the bill, the definition of large cigars includes, “any roll of tobacco that is wrapped in 100 percent leaf tobacco, is bunched with 100 percent tobacco filler, contains no filter, tip, or non-tobacco mouthpiece, weighs at least 6 pounds per 1,000 count.” Additional stipulations require the product:
- has a 100 percent leaf tobacco binder and is hand rolled;
- 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
- has a homogenized tobacco leaf binder and is made in the United States using human hands to lay each 100 percent leaf tobacco wrapper individually onto a single machine that bunches, wraps, and caps each individual cigar on such single machine and makes no more than 15 cigars per minute; and
- is not a cigarette or a little cigar.
The rider also includes language that changes the predicate date, or the date in which the FDA’s regulations would retroactively apply to new and existing products, from February 15, 2007 to April 25, 2014. This differs from the failed provision adopted in last year’s budget proposal, which sought to amend the predicate date to August 8, 2016.