The Cigar Association of America (CAA) has filed comments opposing the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) proposed flavored cigar ban, saying FDA’s own data show that underage usage of flavored cigars—the main rationale for the proposal—is at historic lows, after years of continued decline.
“This clearly shows that FDA is proposing a solution in search of a problem. The underage usage of flavored cigars is minuscule,” said CAA President David M. Ozgo in a statement. “It is a blatant example of targeting an industry that is clearly marketing its products to legal age adults.”
The comments note that one of the key purposes of the Tobacco Control Act—the law giving FDA authority to regulate tobacco—is to continue to permit the sale of tobacco products to adults, in conjunction with measures to ensure tobacco products are not sold or accessible to underage purchasers. The current historically low youth usage rates show the success of existing measures.
According to the CAA, government evidence shows that youth usage of cigars is so low as to be almost immeasurable. When the FDA first sought to exercise regulatory authority over certain tobacco products in 1996, the only survey that tracked youth usage of cigars in 1997, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), showed last 30-day youth usage at 5 percent in 1997. In 2020 NSDUH tracked last 30-day youth usage of cigars at 0.8 percent.
The CAA comments highlight the most recent data from the government’s Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health Survey (PATH) showing that youth last 30-day usage of cigars overall was down to 0.75 percent and that youth usage of flavored cigars is around just 0.29 percent.
“In short, youth usage of flavored cigars continues to decline to almost unmeasurable levels,” Ozgo stated in the filed comment. “FDA asserts that flavored cigars attract youth. If that were true, we would expect flavored cigars to account for a majority of youth cigar use,” the comment added.
“But the government data clearly show that youth usage of flavored cigars is tiny and declining further,” Ozgo noted.
The comments also state there is no scientific basis for the proposed ban, but there would be devastating economic consequences. Many small businesses, often minority owned, would be negatively impacted as well as an assortment of cigar manufacturers, suppliers and producing countries such as the Dominican Republic and Honduras.
Additionally, the CAA comments go on to demonstrate how the FDA does not show any differentiated health effects posed by flavored cigars and that banning flavored cigars would only lead to the development of an unregulated illegal market for flavored cigars. Illegally produced and sold product can often have dangerous additives.