On September 14th, 2017, the House of Representatives approved a Bill exempting premium cigars from regulation by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)! The Bill now goes to the Senate for approval. According to Skopos Labs, the Bill has a 44% chance of being enacted. This could be great news for U.S. cigar smokers. Unfortunately, this is not as cool as it sounds. But first, more details on the Bill.
The House of Representatives approved House Resolution (HR) 3354, Make America Secure and Prosperous Appropriations Act of 2018 (MASPAA??), which combines the text of HR 3268, Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2018, discussed in a prior post, and seven other appropriations Bills into this single mega-Bill.
Section 752 of HR 3268 prohibits the FDA from using funds provided by the bill to implement, administer, or enforce, the final “deeming rule” for tobacco products with respect to traditional large and premium cigars. HR 3268 also provides the House Appropriations Committee definition of a traditional large and premium cigar:
“(1) any roll of tobacco that is wrapped in 100 percent leaf tobacco, bunched with 100 percent tobacco filler, contains no filter, tip or non-tobacco mouthpiece, weighs at least 6 pounds per 1,000 count, and—
(A) has a 100 percent leaf tobacco binder and is hand rolled;
(B) 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
(C) has a homogenized tobacco leaf binder and is made in the United States using human hands to lay the 100 percent leaf tobacco wrapper onto only one machine that bunches, wraps, and caps each individual cigar; and
(2) is not a cigarette or a little cigar (as such terms are defined in paragraphs (3) and (11), respectively, of section 900 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act).”
And now the not so great news. If approved by the Senate and signed by El Jefe President Trump, the law only prohibits the FDA from spending funds on the deeming rule for Fiscal Year 2018, which runs from October 1st, 2017 through September 30th, 2018. This would give cigar manufacturers a year of relief but not the desired permanent exemption from FDA regulation. However, often, the verbiage in an appropriations bill is copied verbatim from one year to the next and the prohibition could continue indefinitely one year at a time.
Cigar Rights of America released a statement on September 14th, 2017, commenting on the passage of HR 3354. Here’s the content of the press release:
“Today, the United States House of Representatives passed the Make America Secure and Prosperous Appropriations Act of 2018, H.R. 3354. By a vote of 211-198, the House adopted language that would exempt premium cigars from FDA language by restricting the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) from using any funds to enforce the rule. The specific language included in the bill, is the same language that was adopted by the full House Committee on Appropriations on July 12th of this year. J. Glynn Loope, Executive Director of Cigar Rights of America, stated ‘that passage of this amendment, as included in the Make America Secure and Prosperous Appropriations Act of 2018, is a testament to the bi-partisan coalition of co-sponsors that have served as a voice of reason, that premium handmade cigars do not deserve the treatment of draconian regulations as proposed by the FDA.’ Loope continued, ‘the bill further speaks to the original congressional intent of the Tobacco Control Act, while serving as a message to the U.S. Senate, as budget negotiations continue this year.’ CRA would like to publicly commend the House of Representatives for taking action to protect the small business premium cigar manufacturers and retailers of this country as well as protecting the rights of adult consumers of premium cigars. CRA looks forward to working with our supporters and champions in the Senate as they began the process of consideration of this bill. CRA is working in partnership with the International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers Association in an effort to seek this premium cigar exemption, and to mitigate the detrimental impact of the currently proposed FDA regulations.”
So my fellow cigar smokers, cross your fingers and hope this makes it through the Senate!