Historically, cigar consumers in the United States enjoyed the liberty to buy their cherished smokes hassle free and get them in-store or on-line withoutbeing subject to restrictions imposed on cigarettes. But on August 9, 2016, a newly finalized FDA rule went into effect regulating all tobacco products - changing the existing definition of “tobacco products” to include cigarillos, e-cigarettes, pipe and hookah, and premium cigars.
This means, among other issues, that beginning in 2018 the FDA will require premium cigar manufacturers and distributors to label their products with mandatory warning statements eerily similar to the wording of the statements already required on cigarette packaging; these warnings must also be included in any advertisements and/or marketing for premium cigars - a realm which has already suffered from government overreach. The new regulations also restrict retailers from giving away free samples of premium cigars, as Mike’s Cigars and many other distributors have enjoyed doing at events in the past.
In their own words, “FDA now regulates the manufacture, import, packaging, labeling, advertising, promotion, sale, and distribution of cigars.”1 This is not the first time the FDA has attempted to overextend its reach and regulation over premium cigars and other tobacco products. In the past 20 years alone, premium cigar and tobacco distributors have struggled with governmental restrictions, advertising and marketing prohibitions, steadily increasing taxation, and constant additions to the FDA’s defined category of tobacco. Today, premium handmade cigars, pipes, and roll your own tobacco are at risk of being regulated even more harshly than cigarettes. These federal encroachments have not been met without opposition, though. In 2000, the tobacco industry scored a small victory when, as a result of FDA vs Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., the US Supreme Court ruled that the FDA did not have the power to enact and enforce proposed regulations to treat tobacco products as drugs and “devices”. The FDA responded in 2009 with an act, signed into law by President Barack Obama, providing:
Cigarette distributors have been fighting a losing battle with the FDA for almost 60 years; with the FDA running out of new restrictions to put on cigarettes, cigar companies and enthusiasts alike are beginning to feel the heat from this government agency as well.
How do the recent FDA rulings affect you, as consumers of premium handmade cigars?
In July 2016, the Cigar Association of America, the International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR), and Cigar Rights of America joined together to fight back, by filing a lawsuit against the FDA’s most recent ruling on premium handmade imported cigars. These groups, representing cigar smokers, distributors, and aficionados around the country, are calling the district court of Washington, D.C. to declare an injunction to put an end to this severe ruling - as it violates numerous federal statutes and the federal rulemaking process itself. You can read a full copy of the filing and its nine counts against the FDA here.
New Developments as of 2017
In January 2017 a new president took office in the White House
It is still too early to predict what changes will occur with cigar regulations but the new administration promise to reduce ALL regulations may impact the future of the current trend and maybe, exempt premium cigars altogether.
For an FDA-issued press release detailing the agency’s latest actions, see here.
Cigar Aficionado’s summary of the ruling’s effect
Cigar Rights of America (CRA)’s response to the 2016 FDA decision
Halfwheel.com’s summary of the top 5 issues