Historically, cigar consumers in the United States enjoyed the liberty to buy their cherished smokes hassle free, with the ability to get them in-store or on-line without being subjected to the severe restrictions imposed on cigarettes. But on August 9, 2016, a new FDA rule went into effect regulating all tobacco products - to now include cigarillos, e-cigarettes, pipe and hookah, and premium cigars in the same category as, and subject to the same restrictions as, cigarettes.
This means that, among other implications, the FDA requires premium cigar manufacturers and distributors to label their products with mandatory warning statements similar to the wording 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. 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:
• Creation of the Center for Tobacco Products, a control center which gives the FDA official authority to regulate sale, marketing, and content of tobacco products
• Requirement of all tobacco companies to seek FDA approval for any new tobacco products
• Calls to prevent sales of tobacco through any mediated platforms, requiring face-to-face transactions
• Labeling of tobacco products with warning statements
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?
Increased distribution costs and taxation mean increased prices. Premium cigars will become more expensive, as the mandated additional costs of FDA approval fees will be met by retailers and consumers.
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.
AGE VERIFICATION REQUIREMENTS - 2016
As per FDA regulations, we are required to ensure that we do not sell our products to anyone under the age of 21. In order to verify our customer’s ages, as well as to protect them from fraud, we use a third party system called Veratad to verify the identification and age of every customer that places an order on our site.
Veratad uses a database comprised of billions of public records to validate the information you submit when placing an order, to confirm the identity and age entered into our system. This service is designed to do this without sacrificing the privacy of the customer when placing an order.
Veratad is renowned for preventing cases of identity fraud by utilizing historical information that cannot be gleaned by the methods typically employed by identity thieves.
• Veratad’s 256-bit encryption ensures your information remains secure
• Veratad does not store your sensitive personal information
• Veratad does not share or sell data with third parties
A small percentage of customers fail the verification process, usually due to limitations in the age verification database, or being located outside of the USA. In these instances, we will contact you to verify your identity or age manually. To do so we will require a copy of your driver’s license, or other government issued ID, to verify your identification.
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 hopefully, 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