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News: Bill to Protect Cigars from FDA Introduced in Senate

8 Aug 2011

In April, a bi-partisan group of members of the House of Representatives introduced the Traditional Cigar Manufacturing and Small Business Jobs Preservation Act (H.R. 1639) to make explicit that the FDA is not authorized to regulate traditional handmade cigars. This past week, a Senate version (S. 1461) of the bill was introduced by the two Senators from Florida: Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio.

The new Senate bill marks an important milestone in the movement for cigar rights, where after over a decade of exclusively playing defense, cigar smokers finally have a national bill (introduced in both houses of Congress) to support their rights. The FDA is currently authorized by the 2009 Tobacco Control Act to regulate cigars if it wants, even though the bill doesn’t require cigar regulation.

So far the agency hasn’t expanded its authority to include cigars (cigarettes and smokeless tobacco are currently under the FDA’s regulatory authority) but the agency has initiated a rulemaking procedure to expand its authority to include handmade cigars.

FDA Regulation of cigars would likely drive up prices (as companies pass along compliance costs in the form of higher prices), stifle innovation and new blends (because bringing new cigars to market could take months or years of FDA testing and approvals), eliminate or limit promotions and advertisements for cigars (including in-store events where cigars are given away or discounted), and mandate health risk warning labels (effectively ending the tradition of the cigar box and packaging as artwork).

Cigar consumers should oppose all of these things. Fortunately, the August recess is a particularly good time to lobby your Congressional representatives, as they are generally in their respective districts.

Senators and Congressmen each have one or multiple offices in their district and often times a voter in their district can request a meeting to express their position on a particular bill.

So far, lobbying on the House version of the bill has been effective by bringing the number of sponsors and co-sponsors to 43 from the original handful just a few months ago. Now cigar consumers need to lobby their Senators too, to protect handmade cigars.

Patrick S

photo credit: FDA

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