Cigar makers are trying to snuff out an effort by the Food and Drug Administration to regulate their products for the first time.
The FDA said in its regulatory agenda for the year that it would propose rules in April to expand federal oversight of tobacco products under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. The news was welcomed by tobacco giants, such as Altria, that want all tobacco products to be brought under the same regulations, according to a Washington, D.C. regulation blog The Hill.
Sellers and makers of premium cigars — often hand-rolled, slow-burning and made with aged tobacco leaves — say the FDA is overreaching, and are hiring lobbyists to fight back.
Glynn Loope, the executive director of Cigar Rights of America, said the FDA’s move is “a classic case of going beyond congressional intent.”
“When Congress passed the original Tobacco Control Act, it was really to address two primary points: youth access to tobacco and chemical addition. Premium cigars don’t meet that criteria,” Loope said.
Another trade group for cigar retailers and manufacturers agreed that the FDA is distorting the law.
“It’s our belief that the act was to prevent youth from smoking and curtail the health effects for youth,” said Bill Spann, CEO of the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association.
Spann said FDA meddling could have a devastating impact on cigar shops. The group has warned that regulators could ban walk-in humidors and seasonal cigar blends, restrict store advertising or even place graphic warning labels on the ornate cigar boxes that are coveted by collectors.
The pushback against FDA rules is also coming from overseas.
In February, the Cigar Rights of America organized a letter from the ambassadors of the tobacco-growing nations Honduras, the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua to officials at the White House, State Department and the FDA, warning that new regulation would threaten thousands of jobs and “raise the specter of political and economic consequences within our region.”