Unfortunately I had no plans this year for Cinco De Mayo. I was pretty bummed about it, as it’s one of those days that you’re kinda able to cut up and partake in as many adult beverages as you’re able to handle and it’s ok. But then as I turn on my computer on this fine May 5th morn, I read that the FDA announced that they would be moving forward in their attempts to regulate the Premium Cigar industry. Queue the drinks.
I won’t bore you with 499 pages worth of details and legal ease, I’ll just get down to business and discuss how this is not only going to negatively affect the hundreds of thousands of folks that enjoy a Premium Cigar, but the thousands of people EMPLOYED by or supported by the Premium Cigar industry.
Any cigar company that released a product after 2007 and before August 2016 (90 days from the ruling) must file paperwork and submit blends for “approval” to the FDA in order to keep said product on the market. While there is no guarantee that following the process will result in being able to continue operations, every company must comply with the process. This same approval process must also be followed for any company releasing a brand after August ’16 to even have a chance to see the light of day.
In a supposed attempt to reduce health risks amongst Americans (while doing nothing to outlaw establishments that sell fire-retardant French fries) and keep tobacco products out of the hands of minors, the FDA regulation will outlaw free samples and make every effort to eliminate “flavored” tobacco, all while leaving internet sales completely alone…interesting. This poses a few problems. Retailers will ultimately be required to purchase samples before deciding what to carry in their establishments and any time a blend changes (seasonal releases, a change in crop conditions, etc.) manufactures will have to in essence start over and yield to the lengthy and costly process all over again. Cigar events will be affected, as samples and gifts are often the draw for such events.
If manufacturers are able to afford the costs to cut through the FDA red tape, the cost must be transferred to someone, i.e. retailers and the everyday, regular, working guy or gal that just wants to enjoy a cigar and not be forced to spend twice as much money for it. The many countries that neighbor the US will take significant losses, as many of their economies are supported by and sometimes solely dependent on the Premium Cigar industry. So this issue goes far beyond some dudes trying to get some nicotine. People stateside and abroad will not be able to support their families and/or work in an industry that they love.
There are several groups and lobbyists fighting for the Premium Cigar industry, namely the Cigar Rights of America (CRA) and the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers (IPCPR). Over the years these groups and other have been presenting to key decision makers in congress educating and preaching the differences between Premium Cigars, e-Cigarettes, Cigarettes, etc. But they can only do so much. The people that hold the keys at this point are people that we have in some way or another voted for and we cannot wait until things are taken from us to finally get upset or concerned. While the FDA decision is not final, it’s close. While it’s looking grim, there’s still a chance for a Premium Cigar exemption. There is also a chance for the people that say they care about the beloved cigar industry and culture to get involved and let lawmakers know how they feel. Don’t just post a blurb on Facebook damning government, reach out to the people and groups that are in the trenches and see how you can help. The time for pisstivity has passed. It’s time to get to work Brothers and Sister of the Leaf and make our collective voices heard.