Normally when we discuss the intersection of the FDA, government regulations and tobacco we’re talking about cigarettes. (Or vaping in more recent days.) But this week Uncle Sam is getting into full retro mode and going after cigar manufacturers. The most recent spate of moves in the Food and Drug Administration aimed at saving the nation from itself is based on a bit of legislation passed more than six years ago known as the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. This act was supposed to be targeted towards the prevention of tobacco advertising geared toward minors and enforcement of labeling requirements and a few other details. It also included a rather ominous provision described as the authority “to take further action in the future to protect public health.”
Apparently “the future” has arrived and some of those further actions will be geared toward traditional manufacturers of cigars rather than the cigarette market which is the major concern when it comes to children and families. At The Resurgent, Philip Swicegood explains how this is going to shake out.
That legislation—the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act—allows the FDA to regulate the manufacture, distribution, and marketing of tobacco products. FDA is supposed to use this power to prevent minors from getting access to tobacco products, which kids surely do—albeit not really cigars, which is what FDA is targeting. Setting aside that cigars have a totally different appeal to cigarettes, and there’s not a ton of crossover between cigar and cigarette-smokers, as anyone who’s ever been to a cigar shop knows, it’s basically impossible for an underage person to buy hand-rolled cigars, anyway, as a matter of logistics and shop layouts.
But the FDA is pursuing its heavy-handed regulation of cigars anyway. What precisely are they doing, and what are the implications? According to cigar blog Half Wheel, “cigar prices are going up” and “a lot of cigars—not just limited editions—will go away.”
Cigars reach an entirely different market for the most part and aren’t really the go-to choice for people just looking for a nicotine fix. The ones which are even marginally palatable cost more than cigarettes and you need more time (and space) to enjoy one. The packaging tends to be entirely different also. Enforcing these labeling rules is going to put a major hitch in the manufacturing process and may well drive some smaller producers out of an already difficult market.
Isn’t tobacco really regulated enough already? If you haven’t heard about the health effects of it by now then you probably don’t live anywhere with a store where you can buy it. The cigar market is rather unique as a low end luxury trade and it’s fairly self-regulating as it is. But I suppose the folks at the FDA just had too much time on their hands and figured they may as well take a few more random swings at tobacco in general.