Earlier this month, the United States House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health voted to approve The Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act of 2019, also known as H.R. 2339. Introduced by Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.) and Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL), the bill would raise the minimum age for purchasing tobacco products to 21; require the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to finalize its graphic health warning rule for cigarette packs within 12 months of the bill’s passing; require the FDA to finalize its rules regulating products containing synthetic nicotine; prohibits online and catalog sales of all tobacco products; prohibits all characterizing flavors of tobacco products; ban marketing, advertising and promoting e-cigarette products to people who are not yet 21; and enable FDA to collect user fees from all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes [read more here].
Before the Subcommittee voted to approve the measure, Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL) proposed an amendment that would have exempted premium cigars from the measure. Opposing the amendment, Pallone asked Castor to withdraw it and promised to work with her on the bill’s language during the Committee markup phase. True to his word, Pallone introduced an amended bill to the Subcommittee that exempts premium cigars that cost more than $12 at retail. The bill with the new language passed the Subcommittee vote on Nov. 19 by a margin of 29-24 and would exempt a portion of the premium cigar industry from several of the bill’s own provisions but also exempt them from FDA’s substantial equivalency requirements.
“Today is a huge step forward for the premium cigar industry,” said Drew Newman, general counsel of J.C. Newman Cigar Co. “This afternoon the health committee of the U.S. House of Representatives voted to treat premium cigars differently from mass-market tobacco products.”
A premium cigar would be defined according to language contained in H.R. 1854—The Traditional Cigar Manufacturing and Small Business Jobs Preservation Act of 2019. That bill’s language defines large and premium cigars as “any roll of tobacco that is wrapped in 100 percent leaf tobacco, bunched with 100 percent tobacco filler, contains no filter, tip, flavor additive, or non-tobacco mouthpiece, weighs at least 6 pounds per 1,000 count, and has a 100 percent leaf tobacco binder and is hand rolled; or has a homogenized tobacco leaf binder and is made in the United States using human hands to lay the 100 percent leaf tobacco wrapper onto only one machine that bunches, wraps, and caps each individual cigar; and does not include a cigarette or a little cigar.”