Federal judge rules in favor of cigar industry

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The premium cigar industry received good news today as Judge Amit P. Mehta delivered his opinion on the lawsuit between the Food & Drug Administration and the three major cigar industry organizations. The judge largely sided with the cigar groups, calling the FDA’s decision to regulate premium cigars “arbitrary and capricious,” while inviting additional information from both sides before issuing his final judgment, which will take place after July 26.

Many in the cigar industry are hoping this will lead to eventual relief from warning labels, pre-market product review and other limitations that have hampered their ability to continue manufacturing. and marketing of handmade cigars.

In his opinion, the judge was quite critical of the FDA in its legal battle with the Cigar Rights of America, the Premium Cigar Association and the Cigar Association of America. In a joint filing, the three groups sued the FDA in early 2021, challenging the FDA’s rejection of an exemption for premium cigars from FDA oversight, which was trying to impose many of the same regulations. on premium handmade cigars than cigarette manufacturers. Judge Mehta singled out the FDA for its misuse of data.

“The agency’s statement that ‘all cigars produce toxic smoke’ is exactly the kind of callous circular reasoning the court has previously criticized,” the judge wrote.

“Instead of addressing the relevant data it had, the agency resorted to a common refrain to obfuscate the issue,” he wrote, referring to the FDA’s assertion that no data had been provided to support the idea that there are different usage patterns among premiums. cigar smokers, habits that lead to lower health risks. The FDA statement, he wrote, “was not accurate then, and despite the efforts of the trial attorney, it is no longer accurate now.”

The reaction in the cigar industry has ranged from exuberant to cautiously optimistic.

“It’s everything we dreamed of,” said Cory Bappert, President of Oliva Cigar Co.

“Our small cottage industry has been under attack for over a decade with unscrupulous taxes and excessive regulations. I am overwhelmed with tears of joy by the court’s decision. Glad we can get back to work and save thousands of jobs that were at risk around the world,” says Rocky Patel.

In a joint statement, Robert and Sathya Levin of Ashton Distributors said, “We are pleased with Judge Mehta’s ruling that the FDA’s proposed regulation of premium cigars was arbitrary and capricious. This victory is the result of more than a decade of hard work and collaboration between the CRA, the APC and all stakeholders. Today is a big day of celebration for the premium cigar industry and cigar lovers everywhere.

“Family-owned manufacturers and retailers who make and sell premium cigars have long believed that the FDA mishandled its decision to regulate premium cigars,” said senior cigar industry attorney Michael Edney in a statement provided by the Premium Cigar Association. “We are grateful for the court’s decision and the opportunity for further proceedings in this case.”

“For the past five years, we have lived in regulatory purgatory, knowing that not only does the scientific evidence not support the regulation of premium cigars like cigarettes, but compliance with FDA regulations could crush the industry. America’s historic premium cigar industry, which is largely made up of small, family-owned businesses,” said Drew Newman, of JC Newman Cigar Co. “For nearly a decade, we have presented evidence to the FDA confirming that children do not smoke premium cigars, that adults enjoy premium cigars in moderation, and the health effects of such limited moderate use.…Today’s decision is a historic decision that will shape America’s premium cigar industry for generations.…Although Judge Mehta’s opinion did not go so far as to strike down the FDA’s regulations on premium cigars range today, we hope it does. later this year after the parties submit their arguments on the appropriate remedy and next steps later this month.

The lawsuit was filed almost 17 months ago. The plaintiffs appeared in court on May 23, presenting their sides to the judge. Judge Mehta invited the parties to file briefs before July 26, after which he will issue “an appropriate appeal”.

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