Tobacco Oversight Must Include Cigars, Say AAFP, Other Groups

Proposed Legislation Would Exempt Cigars From Regulation

September 20, 2011 04:40 pm News Staff

The AAFP and more than 40 other organizations have signed on to a letter strongly opposing House bill H.R. 1639, which would exempt many cigars from regulation under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act( enacted in 2009.

[Stock photo of burning cigar]

According to the AAFP and the other groups, the FDA should retain the authority to regulate all tobacco products, including cigars. All products containing tobacco cause death and should not be exempted from oversight by the agency, said the AAFP in the letter(2 page PDF), which was sent to co-sponsors of the House legislation.

Although the letter acknowledges that the health risks of cigar smoking are not the same as those associated with cigarette smoking, cigar smoke is composed of the same toxic and carcinogenic constituents found in cigarette smoke. According to the National Cancer Institute, cigar smoking causes cancer of the oral cavity, larynx, esophagus and lung, and cigar smokers are at an increased risk for an aortic aneurysm, the letter states.

"Daily cigar smokers, particularly those who inhale, have an increased risk of heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease," the letter says. "It also is important to note that cigar smoking is not limited to adults; it is the second most common form of tobacco use among youth."

Story highlights

  • The AAFP and more than 40 other organizations have signed on to a letter opposing a House bill that would exempt many cigars from tobacco control regulations.
  • The AAFP and other organizations say the FDA should retain the authority to regulate all tobacco products, including cigars.
  • Cigars often are an entry point to smoking among teenagers.

Nearly one in five, or 18.6 percent, of high-school boys currently smoke cigars, including large cigars, cigarillos and small cigars. Every day, more than 3,400 teens younger than 18 try cigar smoking for the first time, according to national surveys.

The letter points out that Congress, with strong bipartisan support, gave the FDA authority over the manufacture, sale and marketing of all tobacco products, including cigars, in 2009. The statute explicitly defines tobacco products as "any product made or derived from tobacco that is intended for human consumption," the letter says, adding that "cigars clearly fall under this definition."

"Congress appropriately gave the FDA the flexibility to determine the type of regulation that is appropriate for different tobacco products," the letter says. "While the Act immediately applied all of FDA's new authorities to cigarettes, cigarette tobacco, roll‐your-own tobacco, and smokeless tobacco, it established a process for the Secretary of Health and Human Services to assert jurisdiction over other tobacco products, including cigars, and determine which requirements are appropriate for the protection of public health."

In the letter, the AAFP and other groups point out that H.R. 1639 would prohibit the FDA from promulgating any regulations involving certain types of cigars, regardless of how significant the benefit to public health or how minimal the cost to cigar manufacturers. The organizations expressed particular concern about the "wide range of products that would likely be exempted from any regulation under the bill, including Swisher Sweets Sweet Chocolate Blunts, Phillies Sugarillos Cigarillos (described on the box as "when sweet isn't enough!"), White Owl grape Blunts Xtra, and Optimo peach Blunts."

"These products come in flavors and are among the most popular with youth," the letter says.