Today the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee approved the Agriculture Appropriations Bill that was drafted by a subcommittee last week. Included in the bill is an exemption for premium cigars from regulation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). As a part of the markup, two amendments were proposed and the results both went in favor of the premium cigar industry. The language will be a part of the bill that moves to the House floor for a vote.

As a part of the markup session, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Connecticut) proposed an amendment to remove the premium cigar exemption in the bill. This amendment was defeated in a 34-14 vote, thus giving a huge win for the premium cigar industry,

Meanwhile the original exemption was strengthened when an amendment that included language that changes the predicate date from February 15, 2007 to the date of enactment of any new regulations was approved. The amendment was approved by Rep Tom Cole (R-Oklahoma) and Rep. Sanford Bishop (R-Georgia). This proposed amendment passed 31 to 19.

The actions of the House Appropriations Committee were applauded by Cigar Rights of America (CRA), the International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers (IPCPR), and Cigar Association of America (CAA). Following the decision, CRA Executive Director J. Glynn Loope commented, “The action taken today by the House Committee on Appropriations is yet another clear indication that Congress never intended to treat premium cigars like other tobacco products.”  Loope added, “this language is a symbol that Congress recognizes the unique differences of premium cigars, and that any effort by FDA to regulate them would run contrary to Congressional intent of the 2009 Tobacco Control Act.”

In order for the Appropriations Bill to become law, it must pass a House vote. At the same time, a companion Senate Bill must be introduced and passed. Finally, the passed Bill will require the President’s signature.

Both CRA and IPCPR have been cautious to say they expect the bill to face a challenge in the Senate. Loose emphasized this on Episode 182 of Stogie Geeks.

At the same time, Congress is facing enormous pressure from anti-tobacco factions. This past week a letter was sent by thirty health organizations calling for the premium cigar exemption to be removed from the bill.