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For the purposes of taxation and FDA regulation, “cigar” means “any roll of tobacco wrapped in leaf tobacco or in any substance containing tobacco” unless, “because of its appearance, the type of tobacco used in the filler, or its packaging and labeling, is likely to be offered to, or purchased by, consumers as a cigarette.”[1]  If this latter criterion is satisfied, the item is classified as a cigarette.

In determining close cases, the relevant government agency looks to whether the item tastes like a cigarette, is of typical cigarette size and shape, has a typical cigarette-type filter, is in a cigarette-type package, and/or is advertised as a cigarette.[2]  If these criteria are satisfied, the agency is likely to classify the item as a cigarette.

Cigar packaging is regulated by the 2000 consent decree between the surgeon general and cigar companies requiring that cigar packages display 5 warnings that are not as serious as those now required for cigarettes.[3]

[1] 26 U.S.C § 5702(a)-(b); 15 U.S.C. § 1322(7); 21 U.S.C. § 900 (as amended by Smoking Prevention Act of 2009).
[2] ATF Rule 73-22, available at
[3] See American Cancer Society, Surgeon General’s Warning to Appear on Cigar Packaging (July 14, 2000). available at