The appropriations subcommittee that oversees the Food and Drug Administration's budget is conducting a markup meeting later today to finalize its fiscal year 2017 budget, and the spending bill contains language that protects premium cigars from FDA regulation.
The provision in the spending bill states that "None of the funds made available in this Act may be used to finalize, implement, administer, or enforce the [Deeming Rule introduced in April 2014 that subjects premium cigars to FDA regulation] if such rule would apply to traditional large and premium cigars." What this means is the bill would deny the FDA any funding for its proposed premium cigar regulation program.
Congressman Robert Aderholt (R-AL), who is the chairman of the U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies, added the rider to the bill. The language is supported by cigarmakers and tobacconists as well as premium cigar lobbying groups Cigar Rights of America and the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers association.
"The inclusion of this language to protect premium cigars is a testament to the coalition the industry has built in Congress over the last several years... ," said Rocky Patel, owner of Rocky Patel Premium Cigars and vice chairman of the CRA board of directors. "As we may be on the eve of the issuance of regulations, this action by the subcommittee is wonderful news."
While it's expected that the Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture will pass the bill as is, many steps must be taken before it becomes official. After the bill is passed, it will be reported to the larger House Committee on Appropriations, which will draft a final appropriations bill. This final version will then be sent to the House of Representatives for a floor vote. The same steps must also be taken on the Senate side of the chamber, and then the president still has an opportunity to veto any provisions, including these pertaining to premium cigars.
If the rider does manage to survive the entire appropriations process, then it means cigars will only be protected from FDA regulation until September 30, 2017, the day the fiscal year ends.
"We commend the leadership of Chairman Aderholt on this issue, as he is working to protect thousands of domestic and tens of thousands of international jobs associated with the premium cigar industry," said Glynn Loope, executive director of the CRA."
The appropriations subcommittee markup meeting is slated to begin at 4 p.m.
Update: The Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture meeting has ended, and the spending bill was passed as written with the language that protects premium cigars from FDA regulation included in it.