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Senators from Both Sides of the Aisle Agree On Premium Cigar Exemption

July 24th, 2017


On Tuesday, July 18, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee hearing heard from leading Senators on both sides of the aisle as Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) testified how the regulation of premium handrolled cigars by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration would have dire effects on cigar manufacturers and the premium cigar industry as a whole.

During the hearing Senator Rubio asked FDA Commissioner, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, if he was planning on reevaluating the Administration’s regulation of the premium cigar industry. Earlier this year, Senator Rubio introduced, in part, Senate Bill SB 294, which would provide an exemption for premium cigars.

“The industry’s future is at stake,” said Sen. Rubio, who added, “I truly think it’s a matter of fairness.”

“Whatever we do in this regard is going to need to be science-based,” said Gottlieb. “But we are cognizant of the challenges faced by small businesses.”

The FDA, whose primary concern has been the use of tobacco products by underage persons, was further challenged by Rubio who insisted that a premium cigar is “not a product that either preys on, seeks to market to, or has a problem with underage use.”

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) who opposes the premium cigar exemption, cited statistics perpetrated by the federal bureaucracy and anti-tobacco advocacy groups, arguing that premium cigars are no different than any other tobacco product. Yet, according to a report on the hearing by Cigar Rights of America, Mr. Durbin’s statistics were “blatantly false and misleading.” Moreover, the most recent New England Journal of Medicine analysis, funded in part by the FDA, clearly notes how America’s youth are not attracted to premium/large cigars.

Durbin’s colleague, Senator Manchin, pushed back pointing out the differences between products in terms of enjoyment, and demographic appeal.

“I’m all for curtailing addiction to tobacco use,” said Senator Manchin. “. . .but you don’t see kids going around smoking these fine cigars. It supports such a robust business. . .It does not add to any type of addiction or support any type of addiction.”

Both Senators Rubio and Manchin’s statements were made in the hope that the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Bill (Senate FY 2018), will also include an exemption like the one in the House Bill that would restrict the FDA from using any funds should the agency continue to regulate premium cigars, and legally exempting such regulation for Fiscal Year 2018.

Should Congress choose to act on current legislative measures that would exempt premium cigars from regulation, Dr. Gottlieb said the FDA would be happy to work with them.