Feb. 10, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

FDA Might Decide When a Cigar Is Just a Cigar

Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images
The premium cigar industry worries the FDA will regulate high-end cigars the same way it does cheap drugstore ones.

“Our product is not desired by, it is not marketed to, nor is it affordable by underage youth,” Spann said. “We fully support keeping our products, the premium cigars, out of the hands of anyone who is not 18 years or older.”

“You don’t see a 15-year-old standing on a street corner with a $20 cigar hanging out of his mouth,” he added.

The International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers Association and the Cigar Rights of America support legislation from two Florida lawmakers, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican Rep. Bill Posey, that would stop the FDA from regulating “traditional large and premium cigars” the same way it does other tobacco products.

George Cecala, a spokesman for Posey, said the congressman plans to reintroduce the legislation in the 113th Congress.

Aides say the FDA could have the flexibility to propose different regulations for different kinds of cigar manufacturers — if it does decide to regulate cigars in the first place. Once the FDA issues a proposed rule, it accepts comments from stakeholders and the public and can revise the rule to reflect those concerns.

Another concern among Democrats is that tobacco manufacturers are now promoting flavored cigars to appeal to young smokers. The law bans fruit and other flavors in cigarettes, but because it does not yet cover cigars, flavorings in cigars are allowed. According to the CDC, 16 percent of young adults ages 18 to 24 are smoking cigars, and nearly 60 percent of them smoke cigars with candy, fruit or other flavors.

“Declines in cigarette smoking among our youth are only buffered by increases in other forms of tobacco use — like flavored cigars,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said in a statement on an August 2012 CDC report.

Rep. Henry A. Waxman, D-Calif., also accused manufacturers of promoting other tobacco products, including flavored cigars.

“After Congress outlawed flavorings in cigarettes, tobacco companies began promoting cigarette-like cigars and pipe tobacco as a way to circumvent the flavoring ban and avoid paying their fair share of taxes,” he said in a statement on the report.

Waxman wrote to FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg in August after the report was issued. Along with his letter, he included internal tobacco company documents that he says show they are introducing new lines of cigars and pipe tobacco, which are not regulated and have lower taxes rates. He plans to continue his push for stricter regulations of tobacco products that are trying to make use of loopholes to avoid regulation.

“I’m pleased to see the FDA has begun to enforce the law. I continue to call on them to take forceful action to protect the public health with the authority given to them,” Waxman said in a statement. “We need to take action to stop tobacco companies from exploiting loopholes and continuing to addict youth.”

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