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Health News Florida

FDA Receives 75K Comments on Proposed Cigar Rule

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Division of Dockets Management says it has received 75,000 comments on a proposed rule on tobacco products. That's thousands more comments than most other proposals. 

"It's looking like it ranks in the top 10 of all time," Ryan Cleaver, a docket specialist with the agency, said of the public comment period that ends today. 

Over the years, a few other dockets have received thousands of comments: proposed rules on menthol cigarettes, tobacco advertising to children and the food additive saccharin.  

The owners of the  J.C. Newman Cigar Company, the last remaining cigar factory in Tampa's Ybor City, are behind the push for public comment. They're hosting a website that directs people to the FDA comment section, and they've wrapped the factory clock tower with a sign that says "Save This Factory." 

Bobby Newman, a third-generation owner of the factory with his brother Eric, says the new regulations could force them out of business. 

"The FDA has told us that it could take up to 5,000 hours if we want to come out with a new product, we have to have testing,"  Newman said. "The cost would be enormous." 

According to the FDA, the new rules would help reduce the rate of death and disease from tobacco use.  

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and others in the Senate are sending a letter to the head of the FDA this week, urging the agency to modify its definition of premium cigars and spare the J.C. Newman factory from regulation. 

In July, Gov. Rick Scott and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera sent a letter to the FDA asking the agency to "amend proposed regulations that target Florida cigar companies."