FDA Should Continue to Regulate All Cigars to Protect Public Health and Prevent Youth Use

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
March 23, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today sought input on whether it should revise how it regulates “premium cigars.” We urge the FDA not to revise its 2016 rule (called the deeming rule) that extended its oversight to all previously unregulated tobacco products, including all cigars, and established appropriate regulation of cigars to protect public health and keep kids from using these products.

In its 2016 rule, the FDA rightly rejected the option of exempting premium cigars from its regulatory authority, finding that all cigars increase the risk of disease, are potentially addictive and produce secondhand smoke that can cause disease in non-users. The FDA also carefully considered, and rejected, the claim that patterns of use of so-called premium cigars – such as frequency of use and lack of inhalation – avoid negative health effects. The FDA’s decision followed a multi-year scientific review and public comment process. There is no new evidence to support taking another look at this issue or reversing course.

The FDA must also remember that cigar smoking is not limited to adults. The 2016 National Youth Tobacco Survey found that high school boys now smoke cigars (i.e., large cigars, cigarillos and small cigars) at a slightly higher rate than cigarettes (9.9 percent to 9.1 percent). In addition, cigars are sold in hundreds of flavors, including sweet flavors like “banana smash” and “watermelon” that appeal to kids. Research has found that flavors play a key role in youth use of tobacco products, including cigars. The FDA should be strengthening its rules, including prohibiting the sale of all flavored tobacco products, rather than weakening them.

The FDA must also take into account tobacco manufacturers’ history of modifying their products to avoid public health protections or attain lower tax rates. The FDA should not create another loophole that tobacco companies can exploit to introduce products that appeal to kids or otherwise harm public health.

There is no public health justification for exempting any tobacco product from FDA oversight. Instead, the FDA should move forward with several critical actions to accelerate progress in reducing tobacco use. These include reducing nicotine levels in cigarettes and other combustible tobacco products to minimally or non-addictive levels; banning all flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes; requiring large, graphic health warnings on cigarette packs; and supporting the development of innovative new products to help more smokers quit.