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News: H.R. 1639 Reaches 150 Co-Sponsors

16 Feb 2012

An important milestone was reached yesterday. The number of co-sponsors on H.R. 1639—federal legislation that would protect premium cigars from Food & Drug Administration (FDA) regulations—hit 150. That means almost 35% of the U.S. House of Representatives is co-sponsoring this bipartisan bill.

Ever since June 2009 when President Obama signed the “Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act,” my colleagues and I have written ad nauseam about the danger of granting the FDA jurisdiction over handmade cigars. In fact, our warnings on the subject date back to the summer of 2007, when a Senate panel brought national attention to the issue.

Why have we been so outspoken and persistent in our objection to FDA regulation of cigars? According to an FDA spokesperson, the agency would make cigars subject to registration, product and ingredient listing, additional taxes, and premarket review requirements. Such regulation would be devastating to the cigar industry, and in particular to boutique cigars and the creation of new blends.

The proposition of these regulations also shows a complete misunderstanding of the handmade artisanal nature of premium cigars on the part of FDA bureaucrats. “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.

Since this issue has come to the fore, our discussions with cigar makers, retailers, and industry leaders suggest a growing consensus: FDA regulation is the single greatest threat facing the cigar industry.

So if your representative is not currently one of the 150 co-sponsors of H.R. 1639 (and if your senators are not co-sponsors of the companion bill in the U.S. Senate, S. 1461) please contact them immediately. The very survival of the cigar industry as we know it may depend on the outcome of these efforts to protect cigars from FDA regulation.

Patrick A

photo credit: Flickr

Drew Estate

3 Responses to “News: H.R. 1639 Reaches 150 Co-Sponsors”

  1. Rogers71 Thursday, February 16, 2012 at 1:57 pm #

    What I like about these bills is that they represent the first time the cigar industry has gone on the offensive legislatively, instead of just playing defense. Much more adventageous to be FOR something on Capitol Hill than just against things. I truly hope these measures pass.

  2. George E. Thursday, February 16, 2012 at 3:14 pm #

    Another step you might consider in support of the bill is to contact the representatives chairing the subcommittee and committee to which H.R. 1639 has been assigned. No hearings have been held or scheduled, and while they’re not required for passage, it would be a good opportunity for cigar supporters to testify on the inaccuracies being repeated by the bill’s opponents. Traditionally, committee hairs don’t consponsors bills coming before them and neither has in this case. The bill has been assigned to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, chaired by Fred Upton of Michigan. You may have heard his name recently since his niece, Kate, was chosen cover model for the 2012 Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. The Subcommittee on Health is chaired by Californian Mary Bono Mack, whose husband, Rep. Connie Mack of Florida, is a cosponsor of the legislation.

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