A New Day for National Cigar Politics
– Time for some Offense, for a Change –
By J. Glynn Loope, Executive Director
Cigar Rights of America
We first wrote about the potential impact of FDA regulation of tobacco, and its hypothetical impact on premium cigars on June 12, 2009. After a decade of Congressional debate, many got what they wanted – federal oversight of tobacco products. On a vote of 307-97 in the House of Representatives, 79-17 in the Senate and a signature by President Obama, a new era in tobacco politics was launched.
Then, on October 2, 2009 (and again on December 4, 2009), we called upon you – CRA members from across the nation – to submit your comments to FDA as to why premium cigars should not be regulated. In response, you wrote sincere, personal, and well versed notes to FDA as to why cigars, are different.
This was during the agency's first Public Comment Period, as to how they should implement The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. We knew it wouldn't be long for this activist federal bureaucracy to get to cigars. They, proved us right.
On May 21, 2010, CRA disclosed the apparent conflicts of interest and internal political maneuvering at FDA's Center for Tobacco Products and its “Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee,” and how the nonpartisan watchdog group Center for Regulatory Effectiveness was calling for greater transparency in the regulatory process with regard to tobacco. Then, on June 11, 2010, we released the noted conflict of interest by members of the Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee, as identified by another Washington, DC public interest group, Citizens for Responsibility & Ethics.
The game changed on April 26, 2010 and December 20, 2010 when FDA publicly posted their intent to regulate cigars in the Federal Register. We knew then, our passion for a great cigar was in the FDA political crosshairs. Something has to be done. It starts, now.
Last week, House Resolution 1639 was put in motion in the U.S. House of Representatives, under the banner of the Traditional Cigar Manufacturing and Small Business Jobs Preservation Act . This bi-partisan legislation would decree that premium cigars should be off limits to FDA regulation and, ‘to clarify the U.S. 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 this industry, from the fields and factories of Central America , to the supply-chain throughout this nation, to your community tobacconist, to enjoying a cigar in your local shop, club or back porch.
CRA commends U.S. Representatives Bill Posey (chief patron) of Florida, Ken Calvert of California, Kathy Castor of Florida, Tom Cole of Oklahoma and Candice Miller of Michigan for their principal sponsorship of this legislation.
This effort has been in the works for a while. The preamble to this initiative was an outstanding joint letter to FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg of August 3, 2010, requesting that the agency ‘distinguish' premium cigars from other tobacco products in the regulatory process. Eleven members of Congress, in a very bi-partisan manner, signed that letter. It was a great opening volley.
Following that, Florida U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, Congresswomen Kathy Castor and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen also of Florida wrote Commissioner Hamburg with the message that because cigars are different, as they are “smoked in moderation” and not marketed to youth, that this is why “Congress did not focus on cigars” when they wrote the Act. This was followed by a similar letter on October 12, 2010 by Congressman (Doctor, as in M.D.) Charles Boustany of Louisiana , with a similar message.
On December 1, 2010 former U.S. Senator George LeMieux of Florida also wrote the FDA Commissioner with this message, and on December 20, 2010, former U.S. Congressman Kendrick Meek also wrote Commissioner Hamburg with the message, “It is vital to keep these important distinctions in mind,” as it implements the Act.
We can assure you, nothing could rip the soul of the cigar industry apart, like FDA actions. For example, some of the (again) hypothetical possibilities, but that are not beyond the realm of reason include: No more walk in humidors (Canadian model); Limits on advertising and promotions; Banning the very word cigar or tobacco ; Manufacturers having to submit blends to FDA for “testing,” before heading to your local shop – imagine the impact on boutique cigar makers; Adverse impact on flavored tobacco products; And price impact due to new fees on manufacturers. This, is the short list.
CRA looks forward to working with the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association and other industry allies to advance this legislation.
Take Action! What you can do:
- Send them a copy of the March 31, 2011 letter from Congressman Bill Posey and Congresswoman Kathy Castor, with a personal note, asking that they sign onto the legislation.
- Call your member of the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate. Tell them to send FDA a message, “Leave My Cigars Alone!”