One day after taking a big loss in court in the challenge over Warning Label Plans and User Fees, the cigar industry had some good news as they learned that an amendment to the FY 2019 Agriculture Appropriations Bill has been approved that calls for both an exemption for premium cigars as well as a change to the predicate (grandfather) date for cigars and other tobacco products from February 15, 2007 to April 25, 2014.
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 that are exempt or grandfathered.
Putting the exemption and predicate date change language in might seem redundant, but it provides some extra insurance down the line. Previously the exemption and the predicate date change have been separate amendments. In a joint press release by the three trade associations in the Cigar Industry (Cigar Association of America (CAA), Cigar Rights of America (CRA), and the International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR)), it has been reported the language was consolidated to a single amendment.
“After working on two separate amendments for the past four years the groups realized that we are stronger working together to accomplish the same goal – the protection of the entire cigar industry,” commented CAA President Craig Williamson.
CRA executive director Glynn Loope stated, “This amendment once again sends a clear message that the regulations advanced by the FDA go well beyond the congressional intent of the Tobacco Control Act. We extend our appreciation to our legislative co-sponsors that have served as champions for this language, as well as proponents of regulatory reform as it applies to cigars with the President’s Administration.”
Meanwhile new IPCPR Executive Director Scott Pearce added, “this language is proof positive these concerns are not only heard, but validated. “I think we’ve seen broad recognition on and off Capitol Hill that FDA’s regulatory regime for premium cigars has been deeply flawed since it was introduced four years ago,” said Pearce. “IPCPR and CRA applaud Congressmen Cole, Bishop and all of our supporters on Capitol Hill for finding a sensible legislative solution that provides premium tobacconists and manufacturers certainty. Congress never intended for the premium industry to endure the regulatory burdens imposed by the FDA. Today’s vote reinforces that.”
There are many more steps to make this reality. While it is good news that this language has been included, in the past advancing this across the goal line has been a challenge. The Agriculture Appropriations draft must make it into the 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 – something that has proven to be a huge hurdle for the cigar industry. And both bills must make it to the floor for a vote. If passed, the President can choose to veto it. Earlier this year, the language failed to make it into the final Omnibus bill for Fiscal Year 2018.
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