Have you seen any of the news this past week? The calendar is kind of weird right now – since 4th of July fell on a Wednesday I’m sure that many people made it a 5-day weekend (and more power to you). In case you missed it, there was another jobs report, and much yelling and screaming ensued; everyone yelled at each other about whether “the Mandate” was a tax or a penalty. Gov. Romney was riding a jet ski, and the President was riding a bus. It’s been a little (too) quiet, though, about where the effort stands to exempt premium, hand-rolled cigars from FDA regulation. So as we wrap up another week full of political news/noise, I thought it was a good time to drop in a few recent updates on the standing of the legislation pending in Congress, H.R. 1639/S. 1461 – The Traditional Cigar Manufacturing and Small Business Jobs Preservation Act.
Allow me to share some quality reporting on the subject…Mark Holmberg reports for WTVR in Richmond, VA. He’s also a cigar smoker. Here is an excellent report from the perspective of someone who “gets it.”
In The Washington Post, writer Emily Heil wondered out loud if “the answer to all the partisan nastiness on Capitol Hill come wrapped in tobacco leaves and smell like the inside of a fine humidor?” Who knows? Cigars might even help fix the way Washington works.
There was a great report, too, from myFox Tampa Bay just a few weeks ago that offered a pretty good insight on what this all means for those of us in the smoke business.
Winston Churchill famously said, “I never worry about action, but only inaction.” Sure, there are people working on the industry’s behalf in Washington, and around the country. The Cigar Rights of America, various political action committees, lobbyists…you know this because you’ve probably been bombarded with all the ads, the emails, the blogs and whatever else on the subject. All that’s happening because they’re working on your behalf, too. I had some time yesterday to sit down with Arthur Zaretsky, President of Famous Smoke Shop. He’s very active in the effort to gain favorable movement on HR1639/S1461 and get it passed. To him, it’s the difference between being able to run an effective business with talented employees and having no business at all. “It’s not real to people,” said Mr. Zaretsky. “There are so many things happening in peoples’ lives right now…higher taxes, higher gas prices, this legislation is not as major an issue to everyone.”
This made me wonder, why not? Much as has been written about the FDA’s potential maneuvers with the expectation that you be outraged - and you should. Now pair that outrage with how it can personally affect you: The inability to buy your favorite cigar, or, if you can buy it, it will be at an exorbitant price; not to mention the inability to attend events like Cigarnival, because events like that, The Big Smoke, et. al., will no longer be permitted. I think the key is to gain an understanding of the legislation and how it affects each of us on an individual basis. For as much as you and I enjoy a cigar, this is about preserving our ability, yours and mine, to do what we enjoy and how we do it.
There’s a useful tool at govtrack.us where you can follow the bill’s progress, where it is in committee, who has signed on, and more. As of today, there are 207 co-sponsors of the House bill. These congressmen and women come from both ends of the political spectrum, both parties, and represent 38 states. So the Cigar Nut really has it right when he says support of this bill by both the political and cigar enthusiast communities “is not a partisan issue. It is a matter of choice, and passion.”
Your passion is cigars. If it weren’t, you wouldn’t be here or reading this. Be passionate. Educate yourself, and get involved. Speak up. No act is too big or too small – just act.