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FDA Directs Committee to Assess Health Effects of Premium Cigars

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has asked the The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, a collective of scientists and scholars, to provide insight on the health effects of cigars.

The study, which presumably temporarily halts the FDA’s pursuit of regulating cigars,  includes a probe of “abuse, liability and dependence” and “a description of health effects associated with the use of premium cigars and how that compares to use of  both other cigar subtypes and other tobacco products, particularly among vulnerable populations,” according to a synopsis of the plan. 

The work began in March and is sponsored by the FDA and the National Institutes on Health. It is being performed by what is called the Committee on Health Effects and Patterns of Use of Premium Cigars.

Among the questions being explored by the committee:

+ What is known about the inhalation of smoke during “premium” cigars use?

+ What is known about use characteristics among users of “premium” cigars in terms of quantity of cigars used, frequency of use, and depth of inhalation?

+ What is known about the characteristics of “premium” cigars that cause people to start using them and continue using them?

 One committee member, Grace Kong,  said in a press release at the time of her appointment, “cigar use, particularly cheap, flavored cigars, is often an understudied tobacco product despite its continued presence in communities with low income and people of color. I am looking forward to serving on the committee with other researchers to identify research questions to ultimately reduce youth cigar use and reduce health disparities.”

Several other committee members — see list here  — have been connected with studies of non-premium cigar use and its impact on young smokers. 

The committee met via Zoom on April 20, and heard testimony from Drew Newman, general counsel for JC Newman Cigar Co., and Joshua Habursky, head of government relations for the Premium Cigar Association. 

While Newman invited committee members to come to Tampa and see his family’s operation, the committee also heard from the anti-cigar faction. 

“There is no such thing as a premium cigar, ” Hasmeena Kathuria, who is part of the Tobacco Treatment Center at Boston Medical Center, said. “The premium cigar is a concept developed by the tobacco industry to escape FDA regulation of all tobacco products…NASEM should not adopt the fraudulent concept of a premium cigar. “

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