The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may undermine its own recently released “deeming rule” with an exception – one which has the American Heart Association (AHA) warning about loopholes.

The rule extends the agency’s regulatory authority to all tobacco products, including electronic smoking devices, cigars, pipe tobacco, and hookah tobacco and makes clear that state and local governments can continue to pass laws relating to tobacco product sales, use, distribution, and advertising.

The FDA, however, is raising the possibility of exempting premium cigars in the future.

No different

“Tobacco in any form presents risk,” says CEO Nancy Brown. “That’s why we have advocated for – and will continue to insist – that FDA oversight of all tobacco products is absolutely essential. Premium cigars are no different.”

Of particular concern: high school-aged males now smoke cigars at a higher rate than cigarettes.

Brown said recent Senate legislation has demonstrated the danger of exempting one type of tobacco product: the definition for “premium cigars” creates a loophole that allows the flavored and cheap cigars that attract youth to qualify as “premium.”

The consequences

“Weakening the deeming rule in any way could lead to an increasing number of Americans at risk for heart disease, stroke or even an early death due to tobacco use,” says Brown.

The AHA is pleased with the FDA’s announcement that it will lower nicotine levels and examine how flavored tobacco product attract young people, but is disappointed with the agency’s decision to delay certain e-cigarette and cigar compliance deadlines. “Altering the deadline for FDA review of e-cigarettes and cigars is a troubling step and one that we will closely monitor,” says Brown.

Brown said the health of Americans should be the FDA’s top priority. “While we look forward to agency actions that can lower the number of Americans exposed to the harms of combustible tobacco, the FDA must advance all tobacco regulation. We must not take two steps forward and then one step back.”