The threat of FDA regulation

Premium cigars today face the greatest threat ever encountered in the form of FDA regulation. The FDA has publicly declared its intent to regulate premium cigars as part of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.

The potential outcomes are ruinous for cigar smokers, retail tobacconists and mail order cigar companies alike.

In 2009, the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act was signed into law. This federal law charges the Food and Drug Administration with regulating the tobacco industry by

  • giving the FDA authority to regulate the content, marketing and sale of tobacco products;
  • requiring tobacco companies and importers to reveal all product ingredients and seek FDA approval for any new tobacco products;
  • allowing the FDA to change tobacco product content, including a ban on flavorings;
  • calling for new rules to prevent sales except through direct, face-to-face exchanges;
  • requiring warning labels to cover 50 percent of the front and rear of each pack, with the word warning in capital letters; and
  • requiring FDA approval for the use of expressions such as “light, “mild” or “low” that give the impression that a particular tobacco product poses less of a health risk.

According to the FDA, “Cigars are considered tobacco products under the Tobacco Control Act. However, the Act does not automatically apply to cigars. FDA must issue a regulation deeming cigars to be subject to the law.”

On April 26, 2010, December 20, 2010, and again on July 7, 2011, the FDA published its intent to do exactly that. Under the FDA, cigars would be subject to the same regulations as cigarettes:

  • Tobacco products that were commercially marketed in the United States as of February 15, 2007 may continue to be marketed, but must comply with all provisions of the Tobacco Control Act.
  • The Agency will need to conduct a premarket review of applications for tobacco products not commercially marketed in the United States as of February 15, 2007…
  • For those products requiring premarket review, FDA will review, among other things, information submitted regarding the health risks of the tobacco product, ingredients, methods used for manufacture, and labeling.
  • Tobacco manufacturers will no longer be able to distribute free samples…
  • FDA will issue regulations requiring health warnings (graphics) on labels depicting the negative health consequences of smoking.
  • Each tobacco product manufacturer or importer is required to submit a listing of all ingredients to FDA within 6 months of the signing of the Tobacco Control Act, and a list of all constituents identified by FDA as harmful or potentially harmful to health within 3 years of the signing of the Tobacco Control Act.

On Friday, September 9, 2011, the FDA issued an “Advance notice of proposed rulemaking” regarding the “Non-Face-to-Face Sale and Distribution of Tobacco Products and Advertising, Promotion, and Marketing of Tobacco Products.”

If the FDA regulates cigars, a ban on non-face-to-face tobacco sales would be the de facto demise of mail order cigar companies like Famous Smoke Shop.

What’s more, local smoke shops stand to suffer a ban on smoking indoors, walk-in humidors, marketing materials and more.

Make no mistake: For tens of thousands of Central American farmers and factory workers, American smoke shop owners, and even mail order companies and their employees, FDA regulation spells disaster.

That says nothing of the hundreds of thousands of regular and occasional cigar smokers whose enjoyment of a legal product now hangs in the balance.

Hundreds of years of history and culture and tens of thousands of jobs will go up in smoke.

The cigar industry needs your help

The Traditional Cigar Manufacturing and Small Business Jobs Preservation Act (House Resolution 1639 and Senate Bill 1461) is our only hope for preventing the FDA from regulating cigars into oblivion. This bi-partisan legislation would exclude premium/traditional cigars from FDA regulation, while clarifying the FDA’s jurisdiction in the “sale, manufacturing and distribution of traditional and premium cigars.”

Famous Smoke has created a great site with all the information you need to help promote this bill to our leaders in the House of Representatives and in the Senate.

The page explains the consequences of FDA regulation, and links to a form that contacts constituents’ senators and congressmen individually. This is the best shot we have at saving cigars from certain doom.

Fight for your rights as cigar smokers! Write and call your elected officials. If you have not already done so, please join the Cigar Rights of America as well.

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