Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee approved the Agriculture Appropriations Bill, which was drafted by a subcommittee last month. Included in the bill is an exemption for premium cigars from regulation as well as a recommended change of the predicate date from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). That language has now made it into the final bill that will be presented for am vote in the House.
The central point of interest for cigar enthusiasts is that the proposed bill has language in it that says federal funding cannot be used to finalize, implement, administer, or enforce FDA regulations on premium cigars. The proposed bill also includes language to define what a premium cigar is.
In addition, there is language that calls for the grandfather date of February 15, 2007, to be changed to the effective date of the regulation (which is August 8, 2016). Currently, a grandfathered cigar is one that was marketed on February 15, 2007, or earlier. This will allow for products released up to August 8, 2016, to qualify as grandfathered product. It serves as a backup line item in case the premium exemption piece is stripped.
There are many more steps to make this reality. The Agriculture Appropriations Bill will now be drafted into a final overall Appropriations Bill and there is a chance the proposals for premium cigars may not be included. The bill must then be passed by the House. Also, a companion bill must clear the U.S. Senate. And both bills must make it to the floor for a vote. If passed, the President can choose to veto it.
Last year, the language for a premium cigar exemption and grandfather date change did make it into the final overall Appropriations Bill. However, a Continuing Resolution was adopted instead. The Continuing Resolution allowed for the government to continue to operate for the next four months. It extended the current funding for operations for most federal agencies and services, thus overriding the proposals for premium cigars by default.