Navigating Legislative and Regulatory Change

Four experts discuss issues and legislative challenges facing the premium tobacco industry during a special panel at Tobacco Plus Expo (TPE) 2018 in Las Vegas.

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Steinsapir warned that the lawsuits challenging aspects of the FDA’s regulatory oversight of premium tobacco might not be resolved for years to come. “From an FDA perspective, there’s no real clarity as to where we are going,” said Steinsapir, general counsel for Kretek International, who said that he reads tweets from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb to get a bead on what the agency has planned.

Steinsapir acknowledged that multiple factors are at play in shaping the legislative and regulatory landscape, from state and local legislative activity to the political climate. However, signs seem to suggest that the agency is primarily targeting cigarettes rather than vapor products and cigars. Still, the agency has continued to resist the idea of embracing harm-reducing alternatives to combustible cigarettes, noting that there’s no way to prove that such alternatives will not serve as a “gateway” to smoking for current nonsmokers.

While the various lawsuits against the FDA might delay the rollout of its regulatory authority, Han encouraged retailers to get involved at the local level. Some municipalities have passed flavor bans and age 21 buying restrictions in addition to public smoking bans and higher tobacco taxes. Cass agreed, saying that he was far more worried about state and local laws than he was concerning federal legislation. The best way to challenge these initiatives is to get to know your local representatives and invite them into your store so that they can see what premium tobacconists really are.

To be sure, change is coming to the industry and tobacconists must be able to adapt to the upcoming transformation, but Cass once again stated that the industry could survive.
“In the NFL, rules change every year,” he concluded. “The teams that win are the ones who adapt to the changes the best.”

This story first appeared in the March/April 2018 issue of Tobacco Business magazine. Members of the tobacco industry are eligible for a complimentary subscription to our magazine. Click here for details.

– Story by Stephen A. Ross, senior editor of Tobacco Business Magazine