The Washington Post

FDA to regulate fine cigars, but foes say stogies breed bipartisanship

(Steve Helber/AP)

Advocates of legislation exempting fancy, hand-rolled cigars from the kind of regulation the FDA applies to common smokes think so. A leisurely cigar-smoking session brings people — even lawmakers of different stripes — together, the thinking goes.

Case in point: The list of co-sponsors for a bill carving out premium cigars from the FDA’s clutches includes liberals and Tea Partyers alike.

Bill Spann, CEO of the International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers Association, says cigar-as-political-salve isn’t much of a stretch. Places where people gather to smoke fine cigars, like cigar lounges, “have become the barbershops of older days — everyone is equal” regardless of party affiliation, he contends.

But the industry’s best argument, he says, is that the bill is all about jobs (yes, we’ve heard this one before). Regulation would kill some of the nearly 86,000 jobs the fine-cigar industry supports, the association is telling lawmakers.

The FDA’s been sending up smoke signals indicating that it plans to issue proposed rules on hand-rolled stogies as part of its efforts to curb tobacco-related diseases and deaths. A ruling could come at any time.

And no matter how much members of Congress might enjoy savoring a fine cigar, counting on Congress to act quickly and in a bipartisan way to avert new rules might just be a pipe dream.

Emily Heil is the co-author of the Reliable Source and previously helped pen the In the Loop column with Al Kamen.


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