Apparently bowing to political pressure from public health groups and three U.S. Senators, officials for the Orange Bowl announced yesterday that they have abandoned plans to have Camacho Cigars promote its products at game-day events over a three-year period.

Although the Tobacco Control Act bans brand name “sponsorships” of athletic, social and cultural events, the sponsorship ban does not apply to cigars or pipe tobacco.  The sponsorship ban applies only to cigarettes, roll-your-own tobacco and smokeless tobacco.

Moreover, public accounts of the cigar company’s “sponsorship” indicated that Camacho planned to advertise its products at game-day events and to offer smoking lounges.  It would not appear that such activity rises to the level of a “sponsorship,” as opposed to naming rights that are common in college football bowls.  In any event, if the definition of “sponsorship” were broadly applied to simple advertising at game-day events, such a First Amendment speech restriction may be unconstitutionally vague.

Notwithstanding the fact that the agreement between Camacho Cigars and the Orange Bowl was entirely legal, public health groups raised the false claim that the deal was prohibited by federal tobacco marketing restrictions.  In addition, three of the architects of the Tobacco Control Act — Senators Durbin, Blumenthal and Durbin — argued that cigars contain the same cancer-causing chemicals as cigarettes, and should therefore be subject to the same restrictions.

If the Senators thought that brand-name sponsorship restrictions were so important for cigars, why did they not include such restrictions in the Tobacco Control Act?  These same senators have repeatedly implored FDA to extend the brand name sponsorship and other advertising restrictions to cigars pursuant to its authority under the Tobacco Control Act, but FDA has not yet done so.  The latest reported estimate for such regulations is early 2012.

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