US Judge Rules Against FDA on Premium Cigar Regulation

US Judge Rules Against FDA on Premium Cigar Regulation
A US judge ruled FDA's decision on regulating premium cigars as arbitrary and capricious, asks for briefing on decision reversal.

On Tuesday, a federal judge in the U.S. ruled that the FDA's decision to regulate premium cigars under the same federal laws as cigarettes and other tobacco products was arbitrary and capricious.

District Judge Amit Mehta in Washington D.C. has stated that the FDA disregarded relevant data on the health risks associated with high-quality cigars. He has requested the FDA and industry groups that question this regulation, including the Premium Cigar Association and the Cigar Rights of America, to submit briefs explaining why he should overturn the FDA's decision.

Michael Edney, the attorney for the plaintiff firm Steptoe & Johnson, stated that the family-owned manufacturer and retailer of high-quality cigars has long believed that the FDA has mishandled its regulation of premium cigars. He expressed gratitude for the court's ruling and the opportunity to pursue further legal action on this matter.

At this time, it is not possible to immediately reach out to the FDA for comment on this matter.

The focus of the lawsuit is the so-called certification rules passed by the agency in 2016, in which it exercised regulatory authority over a wide range of tobacco products, including premium cigars and cigarettes, under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.

The plaintiff stated that the organization considered and rejected high-quality cigars before finalizing its regulations, as well as during additional consultations in 2017 and 2018.

According to them, the FDA's regulations require cigar manufacturers to register their products annually and provide a list of ingredients for each product. They also require all products to undergo laboratory testing, which is impractical for "craftsmen" who produce high-quality handmade cigars.

Industry organizations state that unlike cigarettes and e-cigarettes, high-quality cigars are not appealing to young people and are not associated with addiction. They cite research indicating that young people are unlikely to use high-quality cigars, and those who do use them are unlikely to smoke cigars on a regular basis, thus not contributing to increased death rates.

On Monday, Mehta agreed that the FDA did not adequately consider the studies cited by the plaintiffs and instead claimed "there is no evidence to suggest" that high-quality cigars pose less of a health risk.

The judge wrote that when an institution unequivocally claims there is no evidence, while in fact there are relevant documented pieces of evidence, and the institution ignores or disregards it, it acts arbitrarily and capriciously.

The case is the lawsuit filed by the U.S. Cigar Association against the FDA in the District Court of Columbia, case number 16-cv-01460.

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