The International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers Association (“IPCPR”) and Cigar Rights of America (“CRA”) filed a joint comment in response to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s ongoing review of how it should define and treat premium cigars. This process, known as an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rule making – marked a major milestone for premium cigar retailers, manufacturers, consumers and the industry at large. It was an opportunity for IPCPR, CRA and other stakeholders in the industry to provide another evidentiary based justification for why premium cigars should be regulated differently from the direction the agency has thus far taken.
Through the comment, both IPCPR and CRA laid out a host of recently published data, collected and analyzed by federal agencies and scientists at the FDA. Through the analysis of the government sponsored data, the premium cigar industry found that:
- Premium cigars are luxury items purchased and smoked infrequently by adults;
- The average premium cigar consumer smokes as little as 1.1 days per month;
- Youth engagement with premium cigar products is so minimal it was determined to be statistically insignificant;
- Premium cigars are not used by consumers as an alternative or supplemental source of nicotine.
This data, published since cigar regulations went into effect in August 2016, counters the FDA’s justification for applying burdensome new requirements on the industry.
Scott Pearce, IPCPR Executive Director, recognizes these comments are a definitive step in the continued fight for recognition by the Federal Government. “These comments represent everything that is great about both IPCPR and the premium cigar industry. They underscore the craft of premium cigars, the importance of the brick and mortar storefronts to local economies across the country, and the makeup of consumers who enjoy the products. If heeded, these will help ensure a free and fair environment for our retailers to flourish in and continue the great cigar culture.”
CRA Executive Director Glynn Loope stated, “The Final Rule as issued by the previous administration was a solution in search of a problem. The studies and comments filed by the premium cigar industry last night provide substantive answers to the FDA solicitation for comment, with analysis and recommendations for relief from rules that 289 current and former members of the U.S. House of Representatives, twenty-six current and former members of the U.S. Senate have stated are burdensome, unfair, and go beyond congressional intent. Now, we can add a federal judge that has noted how unjustly the industry has been treated. Now is the time to correct this case study in bureaucratic overreach.”
With the comment period now closed, it is now up to the FDA and the Trump Administration to take the unassailable science and proposed definition provided by the industry and make the right decision. Change the structure of the Deeming Rule, define and exempt premium cigars and finally bring economic relief and a sense of certainty and security to thousands of small businesses and tens of thousands of Americans across the country.
Ken P. Neumann, President of the IPCPR Board of Directors, is hopeful. “One thing we have seen with this administration time and time again is a willingness to look at the regulatory status quo it inherited and say ‘I don’t think so.'”
While there is no required timeline or next steps for the FDA or the Trump Administration, IPCPR, CRA and the rest of the industry will continue to engage on Capitol Hill and in the Executive Branch, and advocate for a timely and just resolution