What You need to know about House Resolution 2339
It’s recently been reported that the Health subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce recently voted to pass a resolution known as H. R. 2339 or “Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act of 2019.” The multi-faceted bill is designed to address specific regulatory aspects of the tobacco industry such as raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco products to 21 and amending current regulations to include flavored e-cigarettes.
Unfortunately, it also takes aim at banning online (non-face-to-face) tobacco sales (including cigars) within 2 years. The resolution will go to the House floor for a vote and if passed, will make it’s way to the senate. Behind the scenes, the Cigar Rights of America (CRA) has been very active at influencing regulatory policy regarding premium cigars with lawmakers from both sides of the aisle. CRA’s efforts extend from local communities all the way to the FDA and beyond. We recently reached out to CRA to discuss H. R. 2339 and get their thoughts on what we should expect from this legislation.
Glynn Loope, CRA’s Executive Director, shared his group’s activities with lawmakers regarding H. R. 2339 stating, “CRA has been engaged on this legislation for several months, meeting with bill sponsors and opponents in Congress. Whereas numerous brick & mortar as well as online premium cigar distribution companies would be threatened by any ban on non-face-to-face sales, we have voiced that concern to both sides of the bill, as well.”
Interestingly, when considering the state breakdown of the 92 co-sponsors of HR 2339, 8 representatives hail from Florida while 4 more call Pennsylvania home – the only two states without a tobacco tax. In addition, Pennsylvania and Florida are also home to three of the largest online cigar retailers, Cigars International (PA), Neptune Cigars (FL) and Corona Cigar Co. (FL). It’s important to note all three run thriving multi-location brick and mortar operations as well.
When asked about the PA and FL co-sponsors, CRA’s Loope had this to say:
“CRA has worked specifically with the office of one of the bill primary sponsors, Representative Donna Shalala (D-FL) on this, given her representing Miami, culminating with a tour and briefing at El titan De Bronze cigar factory in Little Havana Miami, in August. Following that, and sessions with her Washington staff, she pledged to seek relief for premium cigars in the bill, and to work with our primary legislative sponsor, Rep. Kathy Castor, [(D-FL) in] Tampa. Yesterday, Rep. [Frank] Pallone [D-NJ] agreed to work with Reps. Castor and Shalala on the language in the full committee to protect premium handmade cigars.”
From left to right: Donna Shalala (D-FL), Kathy Castor (D-FL), Frank Pallone Jr (D-NJ)
One of the concerns purported by several outlets was the increases in tobacco user fees; however, Dir. Loope was quick to point out, “there are no new cigar user fees in this bill. The reference to the imposition of user fees pertains to e-cigarettes. This is consistent with a similar proposal made by the President, whereas the Tobacco Control Act doesn’t impose them on e-cigs. This was also a point in our litigation.”
Finally, given the current political climate in DC and growing divisiveness across the nation, it’s refreshing to see our representatives engaged in creating legislation within a bipartisan frame of reference as Loope concluded that “most states have their mix of D&R, liberals and conservatives. Remember it was a Republican congress that passed the original Tobacco Control Act, at the behest of Big Tobacco. Everything has to be judged based upon issues and alliances – not just party affiliation. Our H.R. 1854 [Traditional Cigar Manufacturing and Small Business Jobs Preservation Act of 2019] premium cigar exemption legislation has always had a bipartisan mix of liberals and conservatives …”
As the 116th Congress comes to a close, its reassuring to know that our elected officials from both sides of the aisle are not only getting involved and becoming more competent on the importance of cigar exemptions but actively working with groups like CRA to understand and spread awareness of certain aspects of our lives that DON’T necessitate legislative action, which is equally important. – In Fumo Pax!