Marine lawmaker asks feds to clarify rules on donating cigars to troops

Marine lawmaker asks feds to clarify rules on donating cigars to troops

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) is asking the Food and Drug Administration to clarify rules he worries could ban donations of cigars to troops.

"Tobacco manufacturers and distributors have long taken part in a time-honored tradition of donating tobacco products to service members, often while deployed," Hunter wrote in a letter Thursday to FDA Commissioner Robert Califf. 

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"These donations routinely improve morale and serve to relieve stress. It would be unacceptable for the FDA to prohibit the distribution of tobacco products to service members who are fighting to protect those very rights that may now be restricted," he added. 

On Aug. 8, new FDA regulations on cigars, e-cigarettes and hookahs went into effect, which apply to cigar manufacturers, distributors and retail stores that sell cigars. 

Some manufacturers have interpreted one of the regulations as a ban on donating tobacco products, enforced by fines or other sanctions. 

"Given the lack of clarity presented by the FDA's latest tobacco regulations, I demand clarification of whether these regulations prohibit tobacco manufacturers and distributors from donating tobacco products to service members," wrote Hunter, a Marine veteran and member of the Armed Services Committee. 

"If donations are prohibited, please provide a detailed justification for the FDA's actions. I look forward to your immediate response," he added. 

Hunter, a former smoker turned vaper, is also a leading advocate on Capitol Hill for e-cigarettes. He made headlines after vaping during a congressional hearing earlier this year, while protesting a ban of e-cigarettes on airplanes. 

The Iraq and Afghanistan veteran has also advocated for the right to smoke on military bases. 

“We sleep in the dirt for this country,” he told the Washington Free Beacon in 2014. “We get shot at for this country. But we can’t have a cigarette if we want to for this country, because that’s unhealthy.”

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