Topics related to federal regulation tend to appear so complicated that many people just don’t bother to pay attention. The aim of this article is to try and simplify what the Federal Drug Administration proposes with regard to regulating premium handmade cigars, and what cigar smokers can do about it. Yes, this is also one of the few pending regulations where we, the people (at least the people who enjoy smoking premium handmade cigars), can raise our voices in an effort to influence what the FDA will eventually enforce. More on how to do that later, but let’s start at the beginning so you can understand what the FDA regulations are proposing.
The Back Story – FDA Cigar Regulations
The main issue at hand is how premium cigars will be defined. Due to the nature of how premium handmade cigars are produced, distributed and marketed, this seems to have gotten the Drug Administration tied-up like a Culebra, so here’s what they’ve proposed:
Either the FDA would regulate all cigars, machine-mades, premium handmades, et al. as one all-inclusive product, or, create a new definition for what they call “covered cigars,” and therefore, premium cigars would be identified as a product that …
- is wrapped in whole tobacco leaf
- contains a 100% tobacco leaf binder
- contains mostly or all long-filler tobacco
- is made by manually rolling the wrapper, filler, and binder
- has no filter, tip, or non-tobacco mouthpiece, and is capped by hand
- weighs more than 6 lbs. per 1000 units
- does not have a characterizing flavor other than tobacco
- has a retail price of no less than $10 per cigar
A few of the above definitions are reasonable. For example, being wrapped in a whole tobacco leaf, containing 100% tobacco leaf filler, and manually rolling all of the cigar’s components, but makers of premium handmade cigars have already been doing that for generations. However, definitions such as having no “characterizing flavor other than tobacco,” and having “a retail price of no less than $10 a cigar” warrant a major FAIL.
Think about it. If a premium cigar was to be defined as one that did not have a characterizing flavor other than tobacco, cigars like ACID and Java by Drew Estate, CAO flavours, Tatiana, Maker’s Mark, etc. could be headed for annihilation. And since the federal government is capable of any misdeed, let’s take it one step beyond. This reg could mean that even cigars aged in cedar rooms, rum barrels, wine barrels, not to mention other natural methods that blenders use to improve the flavor of their tobaccos would be classified as “non-premiums” under this restriction.
Make your comment to the FDA here: Tobacco Legislation Action Center
As for premium cigars being defined as a cigar that sells for no less than $10 a stick (even after any discounts or coupons have been accounted for), any single premium cigar selling for less than the required $10 per stick would be regulated beyond all reason. That would account for 85% of the cigars on the market! This begs the question: Are all of the premium cigars priced under $10 any less “premium” than those costing $10 or more? According to Cigar Rights of America Executive Director, Glynn Loope: “In the history of FDA cigar regulations, we cannot find a precedent for the federal government dictating the price of a consumer product.” Do you see how insidious this is?
A day that will live in infamy
On the morning of April 24, 2014, the FDA issued its first round of regulations for cigars. For cigar manufacturers, retailers, their suppliers, and consumers, this announcement had all the impact of the Normandy invasion.
One of the 78 items in this “foundational document,” as the FDA Commissioner called it, that pertain specifically to cigars, is a ban on sample cigars. How’s this for a scenario? Your local cigar retailer announces they’re featuring deals on a new frontmark from XYZ Cigars. You walk in; the XYZ sales rep offers you a sample hoping you’ll like it enough to buy a box. Yet, if the federal government is able to enforce such a mandate, the manufacturer will lose the opportunity to hand out that sample, and you lose the opportunity to smoke it.
Within the “Deeming Regulation,” the federal government also wants cigar manufacturers subjected to a pre-market review before their cigars ship to retailers. This “review” would require things like inspections, testing and other forms of analysis, maybe even on-site observation by federal agents, and who knows what other forms of scrutiny the FDA can think of, all prior to release.
By their own admission, the FDA states that it will take a company 5,000 hours to complete this process. Add in the lawyer fees, and even the big manufacturers like Altadis USA, General Cigar, and Davidoff, could wind up spending millions of dollars just to get their new cigars on the market, not to mention companies like Arturo Fuente, Perdomo, Drew Estate, Oliva, Padrón, Carlos Toraño, Gurkha, and Rocky Patel, among others. As for the boutique cigar marketers like Tatuaje, CLE, Alec Bradley, E.P.C., Crowned Heads, Aging Room, et al., it would be tantamount to setting-off a nuclear bomb.
Good News, Bad News
The legislation still pending in Congress, bills H.R. 792 and S. 772, which would exempt premium cigars from FDA oversight altogether, are still breathing thanks to the thousands of cigar smokers who have contacted their federal representatives. Should they pass, this would send the FDA a powerful “hands off!” message. As of this writing, 156 bi-partisan members of the U.S. House of Representatives and 16 U.S. Senators have supported these bills, but our work as cigar smokers is not over yet.
Other obstacles cigar smokers will have to negotiate include restrictions on advertising and marketing, regulations on self-service sales, such as cigar stores with walk-in humidors; rules concerning events and promotions, including groups who want the FDA to succeed.
Recently, the American Association of Family Physicians (AAFP) added their signature to a May 27, 2014 letter sent to the leaders of the House Committee on Appropriations by the American Public Health Association (APHA), in which the parties opposed any potential amendment to the FDA funding bill that would exempt cigars from the agency’s proposed tobacco deeming regulations
“We oppose any amendment that would interfere with the current rulemaking process, prevent a science-based decision-making process, and place a broad category of cigars beyond the reach of FDA,” said the May 27 letter, which was crafted by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and signed by more than 30 medical organizations. “An amendment to exclude certain types of cigars would prevent FDA from implementing even basic common-sense rules such as requiring manufacturers to report what ingredients are contained in their products.”
Counterattacks like these, and there are more to come, plus clever attempts to control the flavor, cost, distribution, and production of premium cigars add up to one thing: Prohibition.
How you can help
The FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products originally stipulated a 75 day public comment period, and as of this writing 33,411 comments had been received by the CTP. However, in a statement released on Friday, June 20th by the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Assoc. (IPCPR), the FDA has extended the comment period until August 8, 2014 for cigar smokers to state why they believe premium cigars should be exempt from FDA regulation. There are a number of ways you can help put a halt to the proposed regulation:
- Go to the Tobacco Legislation Action Center, where you’ll find all of the information and links you need to have your voice heard.
- Continue to pressure your Congressmen and Senators about bills H.R. 792 and S. 772, plus the proposed FDA rules. Don’t blather. Just tell it as you see it, and insist they take action or they’ll be minus your vote on Election Day.
The worst thing concerned cigar smokers can do is sit back on their laurels assuming that everyone else will do the heavy lifting. In cases such as this, in which the very cigar industry itself is facing potential annihilation, everyone has to pull their weight.
Smoke Cigars for Freedom!
As you might imagine, Famous Smoke Shop is a huge supporter of the CRA and many other organizations that are fighting to protect all of our rights. If you want to make a financial contribution AND score some killer smokes at the same time, we’ve put together our Ultimate Freedom Cigar Sampler. This pack contains a seriously awesome selection of stogies, featuring Cohiba, Padron, La Gloria, Montecristo, Romeo y Julieta and many more. The best part is that Famous is going to donate the proceeds from sales of these sampler packs directly to the organizations dedicated to protecting the cigar industry from these overreaching regulations. These cigars are already among the best and most popular on the market today, but they will taste even better when you smoke them knowing that they money you spent on them is going to support the future of premium cigars.
Why the FDA Has It All Wrong
By now, we’ve all heard the news: the FDA has given us a look at what they’re thinking about doing to the cigar industry, vis-à-vis new regulations. Pending though they may be, it’s only a matter of time and outspokenness before they decide how hard to come down on cigar lovers. At the heart of the issue is how premium cigars are to be defined…they already have been, by various state legislatures; but now it’s time for the Feds to come up with something they feel is more formal. And the definition of what a premium cigar “is,” is really the subject of the debate if we’re to have any reasonable shot at the FDA moving away from regulating premium cigars. Continue reading
New Cigars in the News
H. Upmann Legacy “Special Edition Wood Mold Gift Set”
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Cigar enthusiasts can now experience the remarkable heritage of one of the most trusted premium cigar brands with the limited edition H. Upmann Legacy Special Edition Wood Mold gift set, coming soon to Famous Smoke Shop. Each 10-pack of H. Upmann Legacy Toro premium cigars comes set in a rustic wooden cigar mold featuring the H. Upmann logo engraved on the front with a retail price of $75.00.
Traditionally, cigar rollers used these wooden molds after the tobaccos were bunched together and wrapped in their binder leaves to compress the cigar to its shape and form.
“Owning an H. Upmann Legacy Wood Mold is to own an important part of history.” said Janelle Rosenfeld, VP of Marketing, Altadis U.S.A. ” This traditional wooden mold gift set will surely impress and delight long after the cigars have been enjoyed,” she added. Continue reading
Today I introduce to you the short video we at Famous Smoke Shop put together advising all of you who love cigars about the inherent dangers that exist if the FDA gains control over the cigar industry.
The reason we did this is simple: our beloved industry is in REAL danger and this piece outlines pretty clearly what bad things could happen to your cigars – from the manufacturing, the way you are allowed (or not allowed) to buy them, and lastly… even possible extinction.
While the feedback has been astounding to this video presentation, I’ve heard a few clamorings on the internet forums where certain people simply don’t believe what we’ve stated, calling it pure conjecture and hype. And to that, I can say, if you continue to believe that, you have been very sadly misinformed.
LISTEN TO ME… I have personally spent a lot of time with people like Glynn Loope, the Executive Director of the lobbyist group, Cigar Rights of America, as well as owners and top executives of many of the cigar manufacturers. I have learned first-hand about the intentions behind FDA cigar industry regulations and there isn’t a person who works in this business who takes this lightly, whatsoever. And, I can assure you that no one takes this more serious than the people at Famous. Continue reading
Come on and sing it with me, cigar lovers…
The FDA took my stogies away, they took ‘em away, away from me
The FDA took my stogies away, they took ‘em away, away from me…
Ah, the Ramones classic with a new twist. Yeah, those crazy pranksters over at the Food and Drug Administration are causing quite a stir here in the land of premium tobacco goodness. With the threat of FDA cigar legislation hanging over our heads daily, I think it’s important to let you all know what could happen to premium cigars if we don’t protect our rights. Those cut ups are all lathered up about controlling the cigar industry, you know, regulating it the way the government does best. Or should I say OVER REGULATING the living hell out of EVERYTHING they get their mitts on! Continue reading
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, HR1639/S1461 – The Traditional Cigar Manufacturing and Small Business Jobs Preservation Act. Continue reading
AS AN AVID CIGAR SMOKER you’ve probably heard a lot about FDA regulation of premium cigars. The fact is that earlier this year, the Federal Drug Administration was given the authority to regulate tobacco products. According to a recent report from Cigar Rights of America (CRA):
In the July 7 Federal Register, FDA restated its authority to issue regulations deeming ‘other tobacco products’ to be subject to their domain [when the legislative intent was cigarettes and smokeless products]. They further stated ‘The scope of the proposed rule deeming cigars to be subject to FDA’s jurisdiction that was previously included in the Unified Agenda is being broadened to encompass products that meet the statutory definition of tobacco product.
Therefore, unless action is taken quickly, the FDA plans to start their new timetable for such regulations this coming October.
Fortunately, House Bill H.R.1639, the Traditional Cigar Manufacturing and Small Business Jobs Preservation Act, was introduced. This bill seeks to amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to clarify the Food and Drug Administration’s jurisdiction over certain tobacco products, and to protect jobs and small businesses involved in the sale, manufacturing and distribution of traditional and premium cigars. At last count H.R.1639 had at least 45 co-sponsors in The House. Recently, added support of the bill is due to the fight not only from CRA and The International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR),
but from concerned citizens like you who have taken the time to write your representatives in Washington.
Thankfully, another major hurdle was cleared when co-sponsors Senators Bill Nelson (D) and Marco Rubio (R) of Florida. introduced S1461, the companion bill to HR1639. S1461, like HR1639, seeks to separate cigars from cigarettes and other tobacco products in order to keep them safe from FDA regulation. Like The House version of this bill, it is called the “Traditional Cigar Manufacturing and Small Business Jobs Preservation Act of 2011.”
Should the FDA regulation include premium cigars under their umbrella here’s what will happen:
- You’ll pay extremely higher prices for premium cigars.
- Flavored cigars will disappear.
- New blends would be subject to inspection, testing, and approval by the FDA, virtually tying the hands of manufacturers.
- Cigar box artwork will be disfigured by health risk warning labels.
- Marketing of premium cigars and in-store tasting events would be muzzled, nor would cigar stores be permitted to have walk-in humidors, and finally…
- NO MORE MAIL-ORDER CIGARS
And that’s just for starters.
Please contact your U.S. Senators today! The last thing you want is the FDA having a say in how your favorite premium cigars are blended, imported and sold. In the meantime, we will continue to keep you updated on any further developments about these bills that come our way.
Cigar retailers including Famous Smoke Shop desperately need House and Senate support for and co-sponsorship of HR1639 and S1461 respectively, and we need you to urge them! It’s the best thing you can do today to help save your cigars from being regulated by the FDA; and believe me, as if government wasn’t big enough already, the last thing you want is the FDA having a say in how your favorite premium cigars are imported and marketed.
Right now is the perfect opportunity to tell your Senators about how FDA control of cigars will affect you as a consumer. To do so, simply follow these steps.
- Go to IPCPR’s Legislative Action Center
- Scroll down to the bottom of the page, and on the right side of your screen, you will see a text box for entering your zip code. Enter it and click “Go.”
- On the next screen, you will see your two U.S. Senators and under them you will see a pre-fab letter you can use or edit to add your own wording.
- Finally, preview your message, and if it’s satisfactory, click the “Send Message” button.
Luckily, Congress is listening to us. We have a great opportunity to nail this one down, so don’t delay, and pass this blog on to your cigar smoking amigos.