Monday, June 23, 2014

The FDA's War Against Cigar Smokers

By James Bovard

During Woodrow Wilson's presidency, Vice President Thomas Marshall declared, "What this country needs is a good 5 cent cigar."

The Obama administration is striving to update that noble aspiration. The Food and Drug Administration recently proposed sweeping regulations that could make it far more difficult for Americans to purchase new cigars that cost less than $10.

The FDA unleashed a regulatory barrage against electronic cigarettes, hookahs, pipe tobacco and other tobacco products. But cigar smokers could suffer the worst from the new decrees.

The FDA proposes banning cigar sales to minors, free samples, almost all tobacco vending machines and limiting cigar ads. The biggest disruption would stem from compelling manufacturers to secure "premarket approval" before selling any cigars not sold before Feb. 15, 2007.

The agency is notorious for long delays in approving new drugs, and it would likely foot-drag even worse for products it despised. An FDA economic analysis estimated the new mandate could severely impact up to 77% of all cigars. The enormous costs for premarket approval could also minimize new tobacco products down the road.

Industry opposition has been a bit muted because the FDA indicated that it might exempt "premium cigars" from the new mandates. But the FDA is charging forward. The vast majority of cigars consumed in the U.S. are machine rolled. But the FDA suggests that any handmade cigar that costs less than $10 is not "premium."

At first glance, the FDA's definition sounds like a caricature invented by Occupy Wall Street activists. Most handmade cigars sell for much less than $10. Does the FDA believe that only people who pay exorbitant amounts for cigars should be allowed to spend their money as they please?

Read the rest here.