For a long time, cigar lovers in the U.S. enjoyed the freedom of buying their favorite cigars from brick-and-mortar stores or online without the restrictions imposed on cigarettes. This suddenly changed on August 9, 2016, when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) extended the restrictions that applied to cigarettes to all tobacco products. The new regulations cover cigarillos, pipes and hookah, e-cigarettes, and premium cigars.
Manufacturers and distributors of premium cigars must now label their products with mandatory statements similar to those required for cigarette packaging. The warnings must be included in the packaging, advertisement, and marketing of premium cigars. The new regulations also restrict retailers from giving away free samples of cigars.
The FDA regulates the manufacture, packaging, import, labeling, advertising, sale, promotion, and distribution of cigars. The U.S. government has long walked a fine line, trying to warn people about health challenges associated with smoking without trampling on their rights to enjoy tobacco as they see fit. Some people think the FDA doesn’t do enough; others believe that they do too much. If not for the intervention of the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000, the FDA would have classified tobacco products as drugs and devices.
One piece of good news for cigar lovers came in the form of an FDA decision earlier this year. The FDA agreed to formally consider the exemption of premium cigars from the FDA regulatory authority. The move was part of the FDA’s to-do-list in overhauling the tobacco policy.
In late March 2018, the FDA, through its Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, announced the agency’s issuance of an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) seeking scientific data and public input on patterns of use and safety concerns. The federal agency was attempting to formulate a proper definition of a premium cigar.
This FDA move followed an ANPRM exploring the lowering of nicotine in combustible cigarettes to a level that is non-addictive. It is a follow-up to another agency’s notice to remove menthol and other flavoring from tobacco products.
The federal agency is developing a multi-year roadmap aimed at reducing tobacco-related disease and death. The agency also showed interest in finding out how premium cigars will fit into the agency’s policy framework. Stay tuned for more developments ahead.