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Cigars Get FDA Reprieve. Exemption Near?

Premium cigars have been granted nearly four more years to comply with rigorous federal testing requirements, and some see this as a sign that the industry may eventually be exempted from these guidelines.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-FL, is seeking a permanent exemption for premium cigars from the Food and Drug Administration guidelines under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. 

Rubio has inserted such language into the House Appropriations bill, according to a report in the Tampa Bay Times.

Also, the FDA has said that it plans to "solicit additional comments and scientific data related to the patterns of use and resulting public health impacts from premium cigars."

"That's promising. The FDA specifically said premium cigars. It's not great news because this isn't over yet, but it is good news."

- Anna Wiand, an attorney who specializes in regulated products for GrayRobinson in Tampa, told the Tampa Bay Times.

Eric Newman, president of J.C. Newman Cigar Co. in Tampa, told the Times that he credits political change in Washington with the new hope the cigar industry feels.

"The sentiment in Washington is that over-regulation kills small business. We hope that sentiment gives us relief."

- Eric Newman, whose company controls the last operating cigar factory. Tampa and its Ybor City neighborhoods were once the capital of the cigar industry worldwide.

RELATED STORY: Inside a Cigar Factory; New York Times.

The cigar industry has been fighting regulations that came into play during the Obama administration when the FDA said it would impose the same testing requirements that it uses for cigarettes on cigars, as well as vaporizers and electronic cigarettes.

Newman and other cigar makers have said such testing costs could force them to end sales of some existing blends. The FDA has estimated that forcing cigars to undergo testing 'equivalency' with cigars could cost between $1,433 and $22,787 per cigar blend.

The FDA had ordered cigar companies, as well as makers of pipe and hookah tobacco, to send details by February about ingredients and how these materials are manufactured. The order included lab testing.

Now, this delay gives the makers of premium cigars until August 2021 to submit test results, according the the FDA change,  which was announced in late July.

Tobacco products on the market before February 2007 are grandfathered in and need not undergo the testing. With a tobacco product introduced after that date, but before Aug. 8, 2016, filing an application proving it is similar in makeup to a grandfathered item would allow the product to remain on sale while the FDA reviews the application.

- According to the Times report about a reprieve against stricter FDA testing

THE TAMPA BAY TIMES is Florida's Largest Daily Newspaper.

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