The pace of the legislative and regulatory process is already proving to be rapid at this stage of 2018. As of this writing, as Congress is convened, the omnibus budget package has been adopted by the House of Representatives and Senate—and reluctantly signed by President Trump—and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued its promised advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) on issues surrounding nicotine and another on cigars.
While language to exempt premium handmade cigars and to change the predicate date did not make it into the final budget package, despite being included in previous packages from the House of Representatives, new opportunities to revisit the regulations that could prove to be so economically detrimental to the premium cigar sector of the industry have presented themselves. The ANPRM is one of those opportunities.
Issued on March 26, 2018, the FDA’s ANPRM seeks input on three issues specifically surrounding premium cigars, which include the definition of premium cigars, usage patterns for premium cigars and public health considerations associated with premium cigars.
The FDA noted in the Federal Register that this solicitation for new information came as a result, in part, of the “ongoing interest from many parties,” including from “members of Congress.” The message was being heard.
Advocacy comes in many forms, and the very existence of the legislation H.R. 564 and S. 294 calling for a premium cigar exemption from regulation has served as a platform for conveying the premium cigar industry’s message that the regulatory agency cannot and should not take a one-size-fits-all approach to the regulatory process.
On April 15, 2011, the premium cigar industry initiated this first-ever legislative effort to protect itself from onerous regulations. It was on that day that Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL) and Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL), as well as Sen. Bill Nelson, (D-FL) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), joined together in a bipartisan effort by introducing legislation to exempt premium cigars from federal oversight.
Throughout the course of the 112th to 115th sessions of Congress, 314 current and former members of the House of Representatives and 31 current and former members of the Senate co-sponsored the Traditional Cigar Manufacturing and Small Business Jobs Preservation Act.
Of these 314 members of Congress representing 44 states, several were the chairs of committees, and many were physicians or nurses. More importantly, however, 73 of them had voted in favor of the original Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, meaning there was recognition of premium cigars being in a distinctive class and not warranting such regulatory scrutiny.