If you’re a cigar enthusiast, you’ve likely been on the edge of your seat as all the news and tweets have been flooding in about the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announcing the regulation of cigars. The biggest question for you consumers who enjoy cigars is how does this affect you? Does regulations mean cigars will disappear? No. Does it mean those who make your cigars may face more challenges getting new products on the market? Yes.
A lot was said in the FDA’s final ruling, outlining the new regulations set forth for premium cigars. These rulings revealed that premium cigars will be subjected to “Option 1” of the regulatory framework, which is the more stricter and harsher or the scenarios the industry was bracing itself for. Here’s what you need to know about Option 1:
Cigars of all kinds, shapes and sizes will be regulated and scrutinized by the government. Any cigars marketed before Feb. 15, 2007 will see very little regulation. That means all the classics and goodies will be safe and likely easy to find on store shelves. On the flip side, anything marketed after 2007 now will require FDA approval to remain on the market. That of course affects many more cigars currently in stores (the FDA itself estimated that this impacts over half of the cigars currently on the market today) and will cause manufacturers to have to spend more time and money in keeping some of their most popular products readily available and will make the process of getting newer products out to consumers a bigger challenge.
There’s a slight silver lining in this. These new rules aren’t immediate. The industry has until Aug. 8, 2016 to prepare itself and that works to everyone’s advantage because the cigar industry typically rallies each summer in that’s known as the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailer Show. This year’s show takes place during the last week in July and if you’ve been keeping up with Cigars & Leisure, there’s a ton of exciting new releases planned for this year.
While some of these new products will be subject to regulations after Aug. 8, you’ll likely see a big push and promotion of these new products because there’s going to be fewer new releases if these new regulations hold up. Another slightly good point among the doom and gloom–these new regulations, you’ll still be able to buy your cigars from online retailers, though don’t be surprised if over the next year online retailers roll out more measures to ensure you’re of the legal age to purchase your favorite sticks.
While many may see today as the end of the cigar industry as we know it, there’s a lot of hope and a lot of people who aren’t ready to stop fighting. This morning the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers (IPCPR) Association released a brief statement:
“This morning, the Food and Drug Administration released its final determination deeming additional tobacco products, including premium cigars, subject to its authority under the Tobacco Control Act. IPCPR’s policy team is reviewing this complex determination (499 pages) and will provide a further update concerning its impact on retail tobacconists. The FDA’s regulation of premium cigars if left unchecked, would have a devastating impact on retailers and manufacturers alike. Consumers will have less choice.
Youth access is simply not an issue in the premium cigar space where 35,000 Americans earn their living along with over 300,000 employees in the Caribbean Basin. Fortunately, the industry’s legislative strategy continues to be implemented, including language recently adopted by the Appropriations Agricultural Subcommittee disallowing any funding of FDA regulation of premium cigars. Bills HR662 and S441, exempting premium cigars and pipe tobacco, continue to gain co-sponsors as we pursue a legislative solution to unneeded and harmful government intrusion.”
J. Glynn Loope, Executive Director of Cigar Rights of America, also stated, “Due to today’s actions by FDA, Cigar Rights of America will continue concentrating its efforts on the pursuit of the legislative exemption adopted by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations, and CRA is calling on Congress to act this year to protect the premium cigar retail community, the availability of legal products to America’s adult consumers, and to address the political and economic threat that this regulation posses throughout Latin America.”
How does this affect Cigars & Leisure? While there may not be as many new updates on cigar releases after Aug. 8, cigars will still exist, as will we. We view our role as promoting the lifestyle of cigar enthusiasts which includes covering your favorite brands, travel, spirits and all of those activities you enjoy doing in your leisure time. In other words, like the industry, we’ll adjust but we will certainly still exist and will work harder to deliver to your cigar enthusiasts the stories of the people and families behind the brands–something that’s not regularly covered by other publications but is incredibly important for both cigar enthusiasts and non-smokers alike to read and get to know because cigars are more about the people who make and enjoy them, not just about the brief pleasure you may get from lighting up your favorite stogie.
If you are a cigar enthusiast, we encourage you to get involved and join in the conversation. If you’re a tobacco retailer or supplier, you should be part of the IPCPR (ipcpr.org). Consumers should join Cigar Rights of America, a public advocacy group that’s mission is to protect everyone’s right to enjoy premium cigars (cigarrights.org).
And be sure to watch Rocky Patel’s interview with Tucker Carlson about the FDA regulations.