The Trump administration has much work to do and undo, some of which should concern regulations of tobacco. In 2009, Congress passed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, signed by then President Barack Obama, which gave the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulatory powers over tobacco products. The regulations that were promulgated at that time pertained to cigarettes. In recent years, the FDA has been threatening to impose regulations on cigars, pipe tobaccos, and e-cigarettes because anti-tobacco organizations like the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation had been lobbying the FDA with the rationale that young people should be discouraged from smoking pipes and cigars. The idea that young people are going to pay up to $25 a cigar is fiction.
In May 2016, the FDA announced its plans to regulate cigars, pipe tobaccos, and e-cigarettes, which regulations were to go into effect in August 2016 but did not because in July three tobacco organizations, Cigar Rights of America, the International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers Association, and the Cigar Association of America filed a legal action in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia for an injunction against the FDA and the Department of Health and Human Services. That legal action is not finally resolved. The proposed additional regulations may include prohibiting walk-in humidors in stores where cigars are sold, prohibiting colorful, artistic labels on cigars and cigar boxes, and requiring pipe shop owners to obtain a manufacturer’s license in order to take bulk tobaccos and mix them, thereby creating blended pipe tobaccos for their customers, “It’s like I’m a bartender mixing a gin and tonic and I had to have a manufacturer’s license to do that,” said Marc Clymer, owner of Ted’s Pipe Shoppes, Ltd. in Tulsa. Mr. Clymer doesn’t know if he will be able to continue this important feature of his business of offering blended tobacco to his customers.
H.R. 564, the Traditional Cigar Manufacturing and Small Business Preservation Act of 2017, which would, in effect, override the FDA’s regulations for cigars, originally sponsored by Florida Republican Congressman Bill Posey and Florida Democrat Kathy Castor, was introduced on January 13, 2017 and in less than two weeks had 52 co-sponsors from both parties. Similar proposed legislation has been in Congress since 2011 and has enjoyed bi-partisan support but has not been voted upon because of a certain veto by a rigidly anti-tobacco president who smoked while in office. If this bill passes Congress and is signed by the new president, pipe tobaccos and e-cigarettes will still be in the regulatory jurisdiction of the FDA, but the Trump administration could do away with those regulations.
It is interesting to note that in 2011 the Obama administration pushed for larger labels on cigarette packs featuring grotesque photos of diseased lungs, etc. A federal judge in a court challenge by tobacco companies ruled against the government.
While the Obama administration was not sympathetic to the plight of businesses, especially those dealing with tobacco, the Trump administration promises to be business friendly. Passage of the Traditional Cigar Manufacturing and Small Businesses Preservation Act would be a good step in the right direction.