Vermont’s Senate Bill 18: Premium Cigars and the Flavored Tobacco Debate

On January 18, 2023, Vermont State Senator Virginia Lyons proposed Senate Bill 18 (S.18) which would eliminate flavored tobacco products in the state. The bill’s preamble highlighted the detrimental effects of flavored tobacco products on Vermont and society as a whole. Her objective was to safeguard children from harmful products such as mass-market flavored tobacco items and electronic nicotine devices by prohibiting their sale in the state.

Despite her noble intentions, the bill’s drafting raised concerns about potential unintended consequences for the premium cigar industry. S.18’s overly broad language could encompass premium cigars due to the industry’s use of flavor descriptors in marketing and sales materials. Although premium cigars contain no characterizing flavor or flavor additives, their artisanal production process imbues them with unique flavors akin to wine or aged spirits. Consequently, describing these flavors in marketing materials would inadvertently classify premium cigars as flavored tobacco under S.18.

Upon S.18’s introduction, Cigar Rights of America (CRA) closely monitored the bill’s progress. While it remained in the early stages of the legislative process throughout 2023, concerns persisted about its potential impact if it gained momentum in 2024.

In early February 2024, S.18 began advancing rapidly through legislative committees towards floor debate and voting. During this period, CRA worked to oppose the bill. CRA launched a comprehensive campaign, emphasizing the distinctions between premium cigars and flavored tobacco products in public statements, and lobbying efforts. CRA proposed amendments to S.18 to explicitly exclude premium cigars from its scope, by using the definition of a premium cigar adopted by Judge Amit Mehta (see notes below) and highlighting the unique nature of these products and their distinct place in the market.

Despite these efforts, legislators in both chambers proceeded with the bill, which was passed by the House and Senate on March 21, 2024, without amendments reflecting the unique nature of premium cigars.

On March 28, 2024, S.18 reached Governor Phil Scott’s desk for his signature. In a letter to the secretary of the Vermont Senate, John H. Bloomer Jr., Governor Scott expressed reservations about the legislation. He pointed out that S. 18’s broad language could lead to inconsistencies with other laws related to substance use, in particular flavored cannabis products, potentially creating legal and enforcement challenges. Ultimately, these considerations led Governor Scott to veto S.18, providing a reprieve for premium cigars in the state.

In the final analysis, while premium cigars narrowly avoided being impacted by S.18, the bill serves as a cautionary tale for the industry. It underscores the importance of CRA and our continued advocacy for the unique characteristics of premium cigars and defending them against legislative measures that would unfairly target premium cigars.


Note 1: Cigar Association of America, Cigar Rights of America, and Premium Cigar Association v FDA

Note 2: A premium cigar is (1) is wrapped in whole tobacco leaf; (2) contains a 100 percent leaf tobacco binder; (3) contains at least 50 percent (of the filler by weight) long filler tobacco (i.e., whole tobacco leaves that run the length of the cigar); (4) is handmade or hand rolled (i.e., no machinery was used apart from simple tools, such as scissors to cut the tobacco prior to rolling); (5) has no filter, nontobacco tip, or non-tobacco mouthpiece; (6) does not have a characterizing flavor other than tobacco; (7) contains only tobacco, water, and vegetable gum with no other ingredients or additives; and (8) weighs more than 6 pounds per 1,000 units.

The post Vermont’s Senate Bill 18: Premium Cigars and the Flavored Tobacco Debate appeared first on Cigar Rights.

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