The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine released its review on Premium Cigars, acknowledging that premium cigars have distinct characteristics, method and frequency of use resulting in different health outcomes compared to other tobacco products. These points echoed PCA’s testimony that premium cigars represent a unique product category that presents a lower risk to public health.
In 2021, FDA charged NASEM with reviewing available data to determine whether premium cigars existed as a distinct product compared to other cigar products. FDA also asked that if such a product existed, to compare health outcomes and the impact that it may have on vulnerable populations. PCA has been in regular contact with NASEM as they reviewed these issues, highlighting relevant research and participating in public engagement events.
In its conclusions, NASEM stated that while all cigars are tobacco products, premium cigars are predominately whole leaf tobacco and lack additives, fillers and flavors that can be found in non-premium products. NASEM also agreed with PCA’s long standing position that price point is irrelevant given that the cost of the materials and construction of premium cigars make them inherently higher price.
While the report was clear that all tobacco products contain addictive nicotine and harmful constituents, the review concluded that the health effects differ based on the depth of inhalation and frequency of use attributed to individual cigar use. The report stopped short of stating that there are fewer adverse health effects. Instead, it indicated that specific research on inhalation patterns was lacking, acknowledging that premium cigar tobacco (due to its curing) results in alkaline smoke that is less likely to be inhaled. Although the report noted that many premium cigar users do not inhale, they indicated insufficient research was available to draw conclusions.
NASEM noted that there is not a lot of research exclusive to premium cigars, generally, and recommended some specific additional study. They further recommended that FDA should establish a formal definition for premium cigars for consistency.
The Premium Cigar Association will continue to be active as FDA reviews and responds to the NASEM reports recommendations and future research and rulemaking efforts.