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US House subcomitee passes FDA exemption

House Subcommittee Passes FDA Premium Cigar Exemption Language

July 5th, 2017

On Wednesday, June 28, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture moved ahead with legislation that includes a rider exempting premium cigars from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s regulation of the U.S. tobacco industry. This would reverse the FDA’s May 5, 2016 decision to include the segment of the U.S. tobacco industry that makes and markets premium handmade cigars.

The draft of the Agricultural Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2018 establishes the FDA’s annual budget. Passed by a voice vote, the bill includes language that prevents the FDA from using any of its funding to regulate “traditional large and premium cigars.”

Although this is perceived as good news for cigar manufacturers and consumers, they’ll have to continue being patient, since there are still a number of hurdles to jump before the bill eventually becomes law.

The bill draft defines the aforementioned cigars as “any roll of tobacco that is wrapped in 100% leaf tobacco, bunched with 100% tobacco filler, contains no filter tip or non-tobacco mouthpiece, weighs at least 6 lbs. per 1,000 count,” and includes the following specifications:

  • The cigar has a 100% leaf tobacco binder and is hand rolled.
  • The cigar has a 100% 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, the cigar has an homogenized tobacco leaf binder and is made in the United States using human hands to lay the 100% leaf tobacco wrapper onto only one machine that bunches, wraps and caps each individual cigar; and is not a cigarette or a little cigar.

Another rider in the bill changes the “predicate date” – the date that requires cigar manufacturers to file new product applications with the FDA for product approval – from its original date of February 15, 2007 to August 8, 2016. This means that premium cigar makers are now required to file new product applications and go through product approval for cigars that were not on the market before August 8, 2016, giving them a wider berth.

The bill will now go to the full House Appropriations Committee, followed by consideration from the full House of Representatives. If passed by the House, the bill would then have to be conferenced and compared with the Senate’s legislation which has yet to be introduced.

Should everything go as the premium hand rolled cigar industry wishes, it would be a major victory for the manufacturers.