The D.C.-based Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is putting out word that a majority of U.S. House members from Georgia, as well as U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, are backing a quiet effort to remove premium, hand-rolled cigars from federal regulation – a move that could include sweet, fruit-flavored ones favored by teenagers.
U.S. Reps. Jack Kingston, R-Savannah; Phil Gingrey, R-Marietta; Sanford Bishop, D-Albany; Tom Graves, R-Ranger; Lynn Westmoreland, R-Coweta County; Austin Scott, R-Tifton; and John Barrow, D-Augusta, are all sponsors of H.R. 1639, also known as the Traditional Cigar Manufacturing and Small Business Jobs Preservation Act of 2011.
Chambliss is backing similar legislation on the Senate side.
From the memo sent out by Marie Cocco, spokeswoman for the anti-tobacco group:
The House bill (H.R. 1639) would exempt from regulation “traditional large and premium cigars,” which it defines as any roll of tobacco that is wrapped in leaf tobacco, has no filter and weighs at least six pounds per 1,000 units. Most premium cigars weigh far more than six pounds per 1,000 units, raising questions about the real impact of the legislation. In fact, many cheap, flavored cigars also appear to meet this definition and could be excluded from regulation. These include some of the most popular cigar brands among youth.
Products that weigh more than six pounds per 1,000 cigars and could claim to be exempted include Swisher Sweets blunts and cigarillos, available in flavors such as chocolate, strawberry, grape and peach, and Phillies cigarillos, which come in flavors including watermelon, sour apple, mango, banana and coconut. Data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health show that Phillies and Swisher Sweets are among the most popular cigar brands among youth age 12-17.
My question: Who, aside from SpongeBob SquarePants, would want to be seen smoking a grape-flavored cigar?
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider