Keep All Tobacco Under the FDA Regulation

If you want the chickens to be protected, you don’t call on the fox to guard them.  But if the United States House has their way, they would turn cigars back to the cigar industry to regulate.  Currently, the FDA has authority to regulate the tobacco industry, which was signed into law in 2009.  At that time 73% of the U.S. House agreed and voted to give the FDA power.  Now, the cigar industry is trying to pull cigars from under the FDA’s power and they have a majority of House members siding with them.   

In a letter dated September 21, 2012 to Margaret Hamburg of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, James A Deer of Prime Time International Company, (a family-owned company in the business of selling cigars) believes the FDA should not give in to “political pressure from any group or individual.”  Yet the cigar industry is pressuring the House to vote to turn back the FDA authority.   

Mr. Deer uses a lot of numbers throughout his letter.  He says the number of large and small cigars increased from 11.5 billion units in  2008 to 13.7 billion units in 2011, a 2.2 billion unit increase.  While this increase was much smaller than the decrease in cigarettes during the same time period (53.6 billion units), cigars need to be measured differently.  For example, both a cigarette and a cigar equal one unit, but both contain varying amounts of tobacco.  A cigarette contains less than 1 gram of tobacco.  A large cigar can contain up to 20 grams of tobacco — the tobacco equivalent of 20 cigarettes.  A cigarillo contains about 3 grams of tobacco and a little cigar, which is the size and shape of a cigarette, contains about 1 gram of tobacco.   Measuring cigarettes with their 1 gram of tobacco and cigars with up to 20 grams of tobacco is sort of like measuring apples and watermelons.  It’s all fruit, but they are not in the same category.

Another number Mr. Deer throws out is the “unpredendented tax increase of approximately 2600%.”   The “2600%” is impressive to say the least, but it needs to be looked at in context of the big picture.  Mr. Deer provides a footnote to his number which  states “26 U.S.C.,Sec. 5701 (a)(1).  The rate of tax on small cigars was increased from $1.828 per 1,000 units to $50.33 per 1,000 units.”  In other words, the tax went from less than $.01 per cigar to about $.05 per cigar.  That unpredentdented tax increase looks more manageable now.  In fact, in Florida, you can purchase a grape flavored, single little cigar for $.69.   Suddenly the tax isn’t as impressive.  And that $.69 cigar is still too affordable for kids to purchase.

Mr. Deer quotes other numbers for declines in “cigar use by underage youth.”  But his quote is an important fact — underage youth are still able to get their hands on cigars because they are cheap.  Removing cigars from the oversite of the FDA will not help keep cigars and tobacco from our youth.  Keeping all tobacco under the FDA will keep the foxes from raiding the chicken house.

For more information read the letter from Mr. James Deer.

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