If you've ever had the opportunity to meet him, chances are you’ve noticed it too. Whether he's talking to customers or retailers - anybody, really - Rocky Patel exudes a genuine passion for premium cigars. And that’s pure Rocky: the hardest-working man in the cigar business; a guy who logs more than 300 days on the road a year, yet still relishes the opportunity to travel the world and putting his cigars in the mouth of his consumers.
It's precisely that commitment that drives him to protect the industry. A former LA entertainment attorney, he's certainly no stranger to the law. And that positions him as a great ally in the fight against the FDA's oversight of the cigar industry. For years, he's been advocating for the rights of cigar enthusiasts. In 2008, he voiced his opposition to the then-proposed FDA bill, which would have granted "the surgeon complete control on the taxation of cigars and...what materials go into a cigar.” He further noted that "with the stroke of a pen, [the government] can pretty much take away our business or have a grave impact on it."
Since then, Rocky has spent a tremendous amount in Washington, D.C. fighting the good fight. As you'll see in this video, he speaks from the heart about how people need to "talk to their senators and congressmen, to show them….this is an art form, this is a culture. We don't have to have a cigar; we enjoy them, just like we enjoy a fine glass of wine."
As noted on the Cigar Rights of America site, "H.R. 1639 has been filed in the U.S. House of Representatives; and a companion bill, Senate Bill 1461, has been filed in the Senate. Both are filed under the banner of the Traditional Cigar Manufacturing and Small Business Jobs Preservation Act. This bi-partisan legislation would decree that premium/traditional cigars should be off limits to FDA regulation and, 'to clarify the Food & Drug Administration's jurisdiction' in the 'sale, manufacturing and distribution of traditional and premium cigars."
Such legislation could have a profound impact on protecting the industry: from the fields and factories of Central America, to the supply-chain throughout this nation, to the community tobacconist, to enjoying a cigar in the local shop, club or back porch."
It's that last part that resonated with me the most. Everybody's equal. Whether you're a CEO or an everyday working man, everybody's the same when you step into a smoke shop, light up a cigar, and talk about life, politics, sports - whatever. Rocky gets it, too.