If you want to continue to enjoy premium cigars as a passion and hobby, don’t just make a comment to the FDA – make it a Damn Good Comment. If you’ve already spoken out about exempting premium cigars, thank you. Speaking up and speaking out is a big help for us all, as cigar enthusiasts. If you haven’t, there’s less than one week to go: the FDA closes its comment period on 8/8 for the submission of comments, data and research on the proposed deeming rules that will determine the future viability of the premium cigar industry.
Criticize that as overblown, if you want – but if the FDA greenlights the rules it laid out this past Spring, the entire landscape is going to change. Prices will go up, manufacturers will go out of business while small batches and limited edition blends will become a thing of the past because of extensive (and expensive) testing that, quite frankly, will relegate these blends to the graveyard of Bureaucratic Analysis. Rightfully so, that’s fired a lot of cigar enthusiasts up: cigar smokers like us are storming the gates at a rate of more than 2,000 per week, making it the most comment-inspiring regulation during the time period, according to Docket Wrench.
You may have seen us banging the drum loudly every day about this on Facebook; we’ve been vocal about this from Day 1. In order to make a truly informed Damn Good Comment, it’s best to revisit the original proposals the FDA published in April. Those rules deeming premium hand rolled cigars to be “Subject to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, as Amended by the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act” are, however, 241 pages long. So let’s drill down to the essentials and get to the “why” in your argument/position.
And that’s where it gets tricky. See, the FDA proposed 2 options for regulating premium cigars…the first option treats them exactly like machine-made cheapies and cigarettes; and there’s just no way we can support that. But it’s Option 2 that, while nowhere near perfect, offers a point at which we can begin an open discussion with the FDA about what is imperfect in its regulatory approach. The Cigar Association of America believes it to be a hopeful sign that the FDA even noticed that there are many types of cigars on the market: “The bottom line here is that FDA appears to recognize that our industry is composed of multiple segments with a tremendous variety of products,” said CAA President Craig Williamson. So at least the FDA is listening – and now that we can all agree that there is no possibility of fair and reasonable one-size-fits-all regulation.
Here’s what you need to inform the FDA about with your Damn Good Comment.
Get your Legalese-to-English translation device out. As we detailed in the Famous Smoke Shop Tobacco Legislation Action Center, the FDA is looking at carving out exemptions for certain cigars (premiums, really) that would have to fit the following criteria to avoid regulation under Option 2:
- It’s wrapped in whole tobacco leaf. Which is realistic – by using a natural leaf (and not a homogenized wrapper, like what’s on Phillies or Black & Milds), government inspectors can easily identify the cigar as a premium. Natural leaf also doesn’t work on a high-speed rolling machine – which makes it more costly to manufacture, and that higher price is unattractive to kids. And that’s why the FDA is doing this, reall
- It contains a 100% leaf tobacco binder. Also correct…flavorful binders from Nicaragua, the Dominican and Honduras – and a host of other countries – not only make up a key component of what we know as a premium cigar, but also eliminate the machine-made ID factor we discussed before.
- It contains primarily long filler tobacco. Send up the red flag: what does “primarily” mean? How would the FDA test for that? What does that mean for Cuban sandwich cigars (still premium hand mades), or when cigar rollers have to snap a leaf in half, to make it fit in the bunch? It should be struck from the definition…tell them that.
- It’s made by combining manually the wrapper, filler and binder. While there are various methods used to do the bunching in today’s production, it’s not a major sticking point. In this instance, the vague definition works to our collective advantage.
- It has no filter, tip or non-tobacco mouthpiece and is capped by hand. Already part of the IPCPR’s definition of a premium cigar, and a practice already in use in the making of premium cigars. No problem.
- It has a retail price (after any discount or coupons) of no less than $10 per cigar (adjusted, as necessary, every 2 years effective July 1 to account for any increases in the price of tobacco products since the last price adjustment). Wait, what? Forget all the mumbo-jumbo after “no less than $10 per cigar.” Premium cigars already cost more than “other” cigars because they’re made by hand; and the FDA came upon the $10 minimum by “conducting a survey.” Of people who only smoke Opus X, maybe. Look in your humidor – how many of those cigars cost less than $10? They’d all be regulated, and probably out of existence. Tell the FDA that’s not appropriate.
- It does not have a characterizing flavor other than tobacco. We’re talking to you, ACID cigar people. Or if you like a coffee flavor to your cigar. What is “characterizing?” No one knows. Besides, the FDA didn’t ban flavors in 2009 when it implemented the original restrictions on cigarettes, and legislators only seem to ever mention bubble gum and fruit flavors; there’s no reason to start now, with cigars.
- It weighs more than 6 pounds per 1000 units. A thousand cigars? That’s a lotta units. Arbitrary at best, premiums fall well within established guidelines – and have no problem fitting in here too.
So it’s time to write your Damn Good Comment. The FDA has posed specific questions to us, as cigar consumers – and they expect to hear from you. Questions like, “should long filler tobacco content be included as one of the required elements of a ‘premium’ cigar?” and “is it appropriate to include the $10 price point in differentiating ‘premium’ cigars from other cigars?” You can see the entire list at our Tobacco Legislation Action Center.
It’s in your hands, friends. I made my Damn Good Comment a while ago, after long and hard thought; I only hope I’ve given you enough information, and some good reasons why, to help you make yours. Do it here: http://www.famous-smoke.com/smokers-rights.