On December 14th, 2017 oral arguments in the cigar industry’s case against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) were held in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia with Judge Amit Mehta presiding over the hearings. This hearing comes after several months of filing legal motions and various scheduling deadlines being implemented.

The lawsuit was initiated by the three trade associations representing the cigar industry: Cigar Association of America (CAA), Cigar Rights of America (CRA), and the International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailer Association (IPCPR). Over the past few months, several legal motions have been filed focusing on user fees and warning labels.

While the trade associations did not issue a formal communication in response to the hearing, Cigar Rights of America referenced an article published by Cigar Aficionado, whose representative was present in the courtroom, in its email newsletter.  A formal communication is not expected due to the fact that the case is still under litigation.

Perhaps the most significant part of the hearing came from Judge Mehta. During the arguments around warning labels, Judge Mehta commented to a Department of Justice lawyer, “If FDA is still studying premium cigars, how can I make a ruling. I have a real problem with a government agency asking [premium cigar] companies to spend millions of dollars to satisfy the Deeming Rule when it may not be on the books a year from now.”

In terms of user fees, Judge Mehta did comment that he believes the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which expanded FDA reach to include premium cigars shows that user fees can be applied to the products now included in that act – which include premium cigars. The cigar industry has contended that while it has been assessed user fees, e-cigarettes (another product now covered by the Family Smoking Prevention and Control Act) are not being assessed user fees; thus the cigar industry contends they are covering costs for e-cigarettes.

According to the article, a ruling is anticipated by Judge Mehta in January 2018.