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The Focus on Cigar Regulation Continues: Hawaii Offers its Own Regulation of “Characterizing Flavors”

Widespread attention continues to be focused on the FDA’s announced plan to regulate additional tobacco products, possibly including cigars. With state legislatures beginning their 2013 sessions, many are signaling how they are planning to take matters into their own hands. In Hawaii, a bill designed to “curtail tobacco use among adolescents and young adults by raising tobacco taxes, while not placing the local premium cigar industry at a competitive disadvantage,” and regulating “characterizing flavors,” is in the pipeline.

On January 18, 2013 Senate Bill No. 653 was introduced into the Hawaii State Legislature. The bill was referred to the Ways and Means committee. As required, the committee scheduled a public hearing for January 29, 2013.

The proposed legislation repeals the definition of large cigar and adds a new definition of premium cigar. It also changes the tax rate on sales of tobacco products and premium cigars. However, what is most significant about the legislation for cigar advocates is its very specific definition of “characterizing flavor.”

The bill sets forth that “characterizing flavor” means a distinguishable taste or aroma of candy, chocolate, vanilla, fruit, berry, nut, herb, spice, honey or an alcoholic drink that is imparted to tobacco or tobacco smoke either prior to or during consumption. “Characterizing flavor” does not include a taste or aroma from tobacco. A cigar is automatically deemed to have an impermissible characterizing flavor if the cigar is advertised or marketed as having or producing the taste or aroma of candy, chocolate, vanilla, fruit, berry, nut, herb, spice, honey or an alcoholic drink.

This definition follows very closely the definitions of other states. In advance of potential regulatory activity by the FDA, state to state handling of cigar regulation and their definition of the term “characterizing flavor” will continue to garner our attention, and we will continue to keep you posted.

For questions and/or comments, please contact Bryan Haynes, at 804.697.1420 or by email.