Under powers granted to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) by Congress in 2009, cigar smokers could find it increasingly difficult to buy the stogie of their choice at tobacco shops, through the mail, and even online.
The “Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act” gave the FDA authority to regulate tobacco after the Supreme Court ruled cigarettes and other tobacco products did not fall under the FDA’s purview in FDA v. Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., et al., 529 U.S. 120 (2000).
Three years after President Obama signed the bill into law, the FDA is considering regulations against cigar retailers and aficionados that could have a crippling affect to the industry.
Hayward “Lou” Tenney, marketer and copywriter for the Famous Smoke Shop online retailer, says the “FDA’s proposed regulations would decimate the cigar industry here and abroad.” Tenney listed a number of possible regulations, including banning walk-in humidors, self-serve cigar displays, and mail-order cigar sales, as well as flavored cigars, cigar events, and marketing techniques for cigars and cigar merchandise.
The language of the 2009 bill seemed to target cigarettes, which are purchased and consumed in a completely different manner than their premium cousins.
Denis Kay, blogger at CigarInspector.com, says the differences between enjoying a cigar and smoking a cigarette are dramatic. “Cigars are expensive in comparison to cigarettes, but they are also designed to offer a completely different experience,” Kay explains. “With a good premium cigar, you can relax and unwind for an hour or two… People who enjoy premium cigars don’t do so as a habit…”
On the other hand, cigarette smoking is a habit, not a hobby. Kay explains, “Cigarette smokers can get their cigarettes for relatively cheap, and many chain smoke through many packs a day. They rush through them on breaks.”
Bill Spann, CEO of the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association, believes cigars and cigarettes are marketed differently and attract different clientele. The 2009 law aims to curb smoking among teens, and Spann says, “You don’t have a middleschooler or highschooler standing on the corner with a $15 Davidoff sticking out of their mouth.”
Spann cautions that regulating cigars would jeopardize some 86,000 jobs domestically. Lou Tenney says roughly 250,000 jobs in Latin America rely on the cigar culture in the U.S. Tenney believes disrupting their livelihood could threaten the region’s economic and political stability.
Facing the unintended consequences of handing authority over to the FDA to regulate cigars, Congress has decided to act. HR 1639, the “Traditional Cigar Manufacturing and Small Business Jobs Preservation Act of 2011” would exempt large and premium cigars from FDA regulation. HR 1639, proposed by Florida Republican Congressman Bill Posey, has 207 cosponsors and has received wide bipartisan support. The Senate counterpart, S 1461, was filed by Florida Democrat Bill Nelson and has 11 cosponsors.
Cigar aficionados and liberty-loving nonsmokers alike can find out how to fight the Food and Drug Administration on this issue and about how government intrudes into the lives of cigar smokers at Cigar Rights of America.
The last piece of the cigar puzzle is the Cuban embargo, enacted in 1960, which has restricted access to Cuban cigars (and all other Cuban products) within the U.S.
Lou Tenney and Denis Kay differ slightly on what the embargo means for American cigar smokers.
While Tenney doesn’t argue for or against the embargo, he says the embargo created economic “opportunities for other Latin American countries” like Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, and Honduras and that “the quality of cigars being produced in those countries easily rivals that of Cuban cigars.”
Tenney does agree that lifting “the embargo would spell more choice for American cigar smokers, and that’s never a bad thing.” Tenney believes, though, “that cigars are a rather small piece of the political and economic puzzle.”
Kay, on the other hand, takes a hardline stance against the embargo. “The purely ideological Cuban embargo hasn’t done any good to American or Cuban businesses,” he says. Kay notes that the government took a long time regulating cigarettes because the industry is largely U.S.-based.
Sealing off a particular market (in this case, Cuban cigars) “helped create a huge black market with significant authenticity issues,” Kay asserts. “It’s really hard to predict how the American market would react to Cuban products,” Kay says, but he hopes the embargo will be lifted one day.
It’s clear the 2009 law gave too much power to the FDA to meddle in the affairs of aficionados and casual cigar smokers. The only way to stop these intrusive regulations is to push back on the folks who gave the FDA authority in the first place.
Matthew Hurtt is a libertarian activist, hell-bent on exposing ridiculous government regulations. Follow him on Twitter @matthewhurtt
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Joseph Hammond
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Andrew Stiles