U.S. Judge Strikes Down F.D.A. Regulation of Premium Cigars

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Not Everyone Is Celebrating

Public health groups, including the American Lung Association, American Heart Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Cancer Society, had urged the judge to uphold the regulations. However, their plea was disregarded. Thomas Carr, the national director of policy for the American Lung Association, expressed his disappointment with the ruling. He emphasized that all cigars, including premium ones, can cause death and disease, and therefore, no tobacco product should be exempt from regulation. Mr. Carr also cited the National Cancer Institute’s conclusion that cigar smoking can lead to various cancers. The public health groups filed a court filing warning that exempting premium cigars from regulation would create the misconception that they are safer compared to other tobacco products.

How the Cigar Battle Began

The effort by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate cigars originated from the Tobacco Control Act of 2009, which granted the agency authority over cigarettes and smokeless tobacco. The FDA was also given the power to identify and regulate other products. In 2014, the FDA initiated the process to regulate cigars. During this process, the agency sought public comments on whether premium cigars should be subjected to less rigorous regulation. Cigar Rights of America, an advocacy group and plaintiff in the case, argued that smoking premium cigars is an occasional pastime and that most users do not inhale the smoke. They also contended that the age and profile of premium cigar users did not warrant the same level of protection as other populations. Nevertheless, the FDA decided to require extensive studies, ingredient listings, and annual registration for premium cigar makers. The FDA concluded that regulating all cigars equally would best protect public health.

The Bigger Picture

The FDA is currently implementing various aspects of the 2009 law on tobacco control, which has faced legal challenges, particularly concerning the regulation of e-cigarette products. The recent decision on premium cigars has broader implications for tobacco enforcement. According to Michael Edney, a partner at Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP who represented the cigar plaintiffs, the court’s decision indicates that the regulation of tobacco products requires careful consideration. The FDA cannot simply impose regulations without thoroughly analyzing evidence and alternative paths proposed by industry and retail groups. The American Lung Association is discussing the decision internally with other public health organizations. The FDA declined to comment on the litigation, and it remains uncertain whether the agency will appeal the ruling.

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