FDA deems itself a cigar authority
Earlier this month, the FDA announced a “deeming” regulation which extends their authorities to all tobacco products including machine-made and premium cigars. Complete information on the new regulation can be found here.
Basically, the rule gives the FDA authority over how cigars are made and the ingredients they contain as well as dictates warnings to be placed on packaging and advertising as well as enforcing age on Internet transactions and restricting free cigar samples. Even though the final rule goes into effect on August 8, 2016 its reach is retroactive.
Any cigars blended before February 15, 2007 are grandfathered. Cigars created between that date and August 8, 2016 may remain on the market while they are being submitted to the FDA for approval. After August 8th, new blends will need FDA approval before they can be sold. Companies will have 2 years to update packaging to include new warning labels. The cost of the approval is unknown at this time.
Over the past year, grassroots objection to the proposed rule has centered mostly on calling out distinctions between the types of tobaccos that would or could be included in the final rule. Most cigar lovers spent their lobbying energy on drawing a distinction between machine-made cigars and premium cigars. Machine-made cigars have wrappers that can either be all or part paper and part tobacco. Premium cigars, on the other hand, are hand-rolled with a tobacco wrapper.
“This is a complicated issue. We are analyzing the regulations and trying to reduce their impact on our customers,” said Alix Franzblau, Chief Operating Officer of Thompson Cigar.
There is a possibility that premium cigars may be exempted from the deeming rule at some point in the future. Language attached to a recent agriculture bill could exempt premium cigars from the FDA’s authority. For now, it appears most in the industry are following Thompson’s example and concentrating on determining the best path for their customers. Barring an injunction from a court or Congressional review, the new rules will go into effect in 90 days, Aug. 8.