The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act gave the Food and Drug Administration power to regulate the tobacco industry in 2009. The goal of this law was to ultimately prevent children and youth from using tobacco products and to reduce its affects on public health. It passed with almost 73% of the vote in U.S. House. Now the tobacco industry wants Congress to exempt cigars from FDA oversight which would weaken FDA control over tobacco products. H.R. 1639 is being sponsored by U.S. Congressman Bill Posey (R-FL15) in the U.S. House of Representatives to take away the FDA’s authority over cigars. Why are over 200 members in Congress suddenly changing their minds and allowing the tobacco industry to dictate policy?
A cigar is defined as “any roll of tobacco wrapped in leaf tobacco or in any substance containing tobacco,” and many people associate cigars with the one pictured at the bottom, left. Large cigars like this are unfiltered and can contain as much tobacco as a pack of cigarettes. However, many popular cigar products on the market today are the size and shape of a cigarette, rolled in brown paper to mimic the look of a tobacco wrapper, and sold in packs of 20. Whereas candy-flavored cigarettes are banned, the little cigars come in flavors such as grape, blueberry and peach, and are popular with under-aged smokers because of the flavorings. The little cigars look like cigarettes, but because the tobacco industry exploits loopholes that classify them as cigars, they are taxed at lower rate and are cheaper to buy.
At a time when more adolescents are turning to cigars as a cheap alternative to cigarettes, Congress now wants to remove cigars from under the authority of the FDA. This would mean that the FDA could not require warning labels on cigars, or require that cigars be put behind the counter out of the reach of kids. It also means that cigar makers could continue to add candy-flavorings which appeal to our kids.
It is time to take a stand against the tobacco industry and tell Congress to protect the future health of our youth by keeping cigars under the authority of the FDA. The link below is a sample letter designed by the American Lung Association that you can send to your Senators and Representatives. Please let them know we need to keep our kids healthy and tobacco-free.