WASHINGTON — A congression al committee moved Tuesday to exempt so-called "premium hand-rolled cigars" from oversight by the Food and Drug Administration.
The carve-out, backed in large part by lawmakers from Florida with close ties to cigar makers, wouldn't prohibit the FDA outright from regulating the fancy cigars sold primarily at high-end tobacco shops. But there's a stern warning in the language accompanying an FDA spending bill that the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee passed Tuesday: "The committee reminds FDA that premium cigars have unique characteristics and cost-prohibitive price points and are not marketed to kids. Any effort to regulate cigars should take these items into consideration."
That language worries anti-tobacco crusaders such as the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. They fear that tobacco companies will exploit a loophole to apply the regulations to all cigars, including those that "encompass a variety of non-premium cigars with sweet flavors, low prices and colorful packaging that appeal to youth."
"We've seen how the companies can manipulate their products," said Danny McGoldrick, vice president of research for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "Some products that used to be cigarettes are now large cigars."