Sad day for the cigar industry - despite congressional intent, premium cigars will be subject to federal regulation by the US FDA. Although we saw this day coming, there was a glimmer of hope given all of the efforts of the CRA and the congressional allies who believed in our cause and our fight. Below is today's press release from Cigar Rights of America (CRA).
May 5, 2016 (Washington, DC) - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's ("FDA") Center for Tobacco Products released their 499 page final rule that would deem additional tobacco products subject to the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, as amended by the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act ("Tobacco Control Act"). Under today's release, premium cigars have been deemed and will be subjected to the "option 1" regulatory framework, which in some respects treats premium cigars in harsher terms than that of cigarettes and other tobacco products. Since the original filing of the proposed rule on April 25, 2014, and the closing of the comment period on August 08, 2014, Cigar Rights of America has been actively advocating on multiple fronts within the Obama Administration that premium cigars should not be included in any form of a final rule. Unfortunately, the FDA and the Obama Administration have rejected and cast aside any rationally objective approach to developing this regulation. When Congress gave FDA the authority to regulate tobacco products in 2009, they did so specifically with the stipulation that in order to subject a product to regulation FDA must demonstrate that the specific product(s) possess issues of underage consumption and health and mortality impact through addiction, both which have never been associated with premium cigars. Congressman Hal Rogers (R-KY), Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee stated during the debate on the Fiscal Year 2017 Agriculture Appropriations bill that, "premium cigars were never intended to be in the original Tobacco Control Act." Congressional intent can also be seen through lens of legislation, where beginning in the 112th Congress through today, 289 different members of the House of Representatives and 26 members of the Senate have co-sponsored legislation that would exempt premium cigars from FDA regulation. J. Glynn Loope, Executive Director of CRA, stated in reaction to today's release that, "the inclusion of premium cigars in the final rule by FDA is yet another clear indicator that the agency never intended on complying with the Congressional mandate in the 2009 Act, and that the agency is clearly overstepping its authority in its zealous pursuit of unjustified regulations." Loope went on to further say, "Due to today's actions by FDA, Cigar Rights of America will continue concentrating its efforts on the pursuit of the legislative exemption adopted by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations, and CRA is calling on Congress to act this year to protect the premium cigar retail community, the availability of legal products to America's adult consumers, and to address the political and economic threat that this regulation posses throughout Latin America." As a result of today's announcement by FDA, the board of Cigar Rights of America will be convening an emergency meeting to evaluate all legal and legislative options moving forward.