There was hope, but in the end the premium cigar exemption was eliminated from the final omnibus bill for FY2018. If there’s a silver lining, it comes with the knowledge that for the first time the House of Representatives passed its spending bill with both the premium cigar exemption and the predicate date change for deemed products from Feb. 15, 2007 to Aug. 8, 2016 included. But when it came time for the final version, the language didn’t make the cut.
Here was the language for the two sections:
Section 752: FDA would no longer regulate “premium cigars.” The definition of “premium cigars” consists of (1) any roll of tobacco that is wrapped in 100 percent leaf tobacco, bunched with 100 percent tobacco filler, contains no filter, tip or non-tobacco mouthpiece, weighs at least 6 pounds per 1,000 count, and—
(A) has a 100 percent leaf tobacco binder and is hand rolled;
(B) has a 100 percent leaf tobacco binder and is made using human hands to lay the leaf tobacco wrapper or binder onto only one ma- chine that bunches, wraps, and caps each individual cigar; or
(C) has a homogenized tobacco leaf binder and is made in the United States using human hands to lay the 100 percent leaf tobacco wrapper onto only one machine that bunches, wraps, and caps each individual cigar; and
(2) is not a cigarette or a little cigar (as such terms are defined in paragraphs (3) and (11), re- spectively, of section 900 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act).
Section 753: FDA would change the predicate date, also known as the grandfather date, from Feb. 15, 2007 to Aug. 8, 2016, the latter of which is the date the legislation went into effect. This would affect all deemed products: cigars, pipe tobacco, e-cigarettes, hookah and others.
“We’re certainly disappointed the bill did not include our bi-partisan premium cigar exemption language,” said Ken P. Neumann, President of the IPCPR Board of Directors. “This just reinforces how difficult the legislative process can be, but we’re used to uphill battles in the premium cigar industry and this is no different. We are not deterred, and our resolve remains strong to find a resolution for our retailers. We remain optimistic about working with the Trump Administration. We’re looking forward to engaging on the pending premium cigar ANPRM and of course continuing our legal fight in the courts.”
While language included in the omnibus bill would have been a major victory for the industry, it would be a temporary fix with the same issue appearing each year as Congress debates its annual spending bills. Indeed, fighting through the courts and pushing for support within Congress on the stand-alone exemption bill still look the clearer paths for the industry.
“Despite this setback, we can’t thank our champions in Congress enough for their continued support and dedicated efforts to bring relief to our industry,” says Neumann. “One thing is for certain, IPCPR will continue to fight on behalf of our retailers around country to stem the tide of these short-sighted regulations.”