A look into the deeming regulation on cigars

Mitch Zeller

Mitch Zeller

This past week the Premium Cigar industry got a glimpse into the possible outcome of the FDA’s deeming regulation on cigars. The National Association of Tobacco Outlets (NATO) held their national convention in Las Vegas, NV. One of the key speakers was Mitch Zeller, who is the Director of the FDA Center for Tobacco Products (CTP). It been just over a year since the FDA proposed their deeming regulations on tobacco including cigars and over those past months the CTP has been pouring over roughly 135,000 comments from the public.

Mitch Zeller indicated that the final ruling could be revealed in June of this year.

Zeller was part of on-stage panel that also included Jim Dillard, senior vice president of regulatory affairs at The Altria Group Inc., and Daniel McGee, general counsel at General Cigar Co. The panel was entitled “Business ‘As Usual’ Under FDA Regulation”

Zeller noted that there are two primary points that the FDA is discussing. The first and primary point is protecting youth from the dangers of tobacco. This is one area we can all agree on.  The second point was centered around the delivery method of nicotine. It is recognized that nicotine is not the danger, although it is the addictive drug in the equation. This is where the debate gets interesting.

“It’s not the drug, it’s the delivery method,” Zeller said. “E-cigarettes have become the poster child for this debate, so it’s about time to look at nicotine differently. We need to recognize that there is a continuum of nicotine-containing products.”

We all wait in anticipation of the impending ruling to come out in June and Dillard did note he is concerned that the proposed ruling is “a bit over-broad” and covers so many various categories. Zeller  pointed out that the deeming regulation is “a foundation jurisdictional step”.  We should not expect this to this to be the end, as it was clear this is only the beginning, We can certainly expect more regulations in the future.  Zeller made it clear that “We should all expect that when deeming is final and in effect, there will be other rulemaking,”

Of course this regulation is  supposed to be designed to keep tobacco out of the the hands of America’s youth and even Zeller stated, “Retailers’ role in complying with the law and helping us keep tobacco products out of the hands of kids is critical.”

I would say this is all fine, but we already have laws that do this in every state and municipality in the country, we should enforce those laws not make new ones. If we can’t enforce the existing laws how will we enforce the new ones and how much more will this cost us.

So we will still have to wait a couple of months to find out the final verdict. Meanwhile you can still press your representatives in Congress and the Senate to voice their input to press for exemption of premium cigars.

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