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Commentary: Still Time to Oppose FDA Regulation of Cigars

7 Dec 2011

This week there was another development in the Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA) push to regulate cigars. The agency announced it was extending the public comment period on it’s proposed regulation of cigars.

No reason was given for extending the comment period, but the extension gives cigar smokers another chance to register their opposition to FDA regulation. Cigar smokers got a hint at what regulation would mean in a recent Daily Caller article on the subject.

In the article, an FDA spokesperson said that under an FDA regulation regime cigars “would be subject to general controls, such as registration, product listing, ingredient listing, good manufacturing practice requirements, user fees for certain products, and the adulteration and misbranding provisions, as well as to the premarket review requirements for ‘new tobacco products’ and ‘modified risk tobacco products.'”

Such regulation would be devastating to the cigar industry, and in particular to boutique cigars and the creation of new blends. And “user fees” is just a bureaucratic term for more taxes on cigars, which are already at record high rates.

The FDA spokesman’s quote also shows a complete misunderstanding of the handmade artisanal nature of premium cigars.

“Ingredient listing” would be nearly impossible beyond “100% tobacco” since blends are regularly tweaked to provide consistent flavor from one year to the next. Further, even if blends aren’t changed, the chemical composition of tobacco leaves changes from harvest to harvest, meaning any disclosure of “ingredients” beyond tobacco would be either completely stifling or totally meaningless.

Similarly, by forcing new cigars to go through a costly FDA approval process, the now constant stream of new cigar blends would grind to a halt. Suddenly, instead of releasing small batch blends, cigar makers would be forced to focus on large runs that they think would have mass appeal after a time-consuming approval process.

All this should worry everyone who enjoys premium cigars. Fortunately, there are two important actions that can every cigar smoker can take.

If you haven’t yet registered your opposition, or even if you already have, please do so here by submitting a comment. Also write your Senators and Congressman today and ask them to support the “Traditional Cigar Manufacturing and Small Business Jobs Preservation Act of 2011,” which would repeal the FDA’s authority to regulate cigars.

-Patrick S

photo credit: FDA

Drew Estate