[This Blog first appeared as an Editors' Note in the July/August 2017 Cigar Aficionado.]
Dear Dr. Gottlieb,
Congratulations on your May 9, 2017 appointment as FDA commissioner. You step into this role at a crucial time.
I am writing you on behalf of a small, artisanal industry—the handmade cigar industry—which has a proud heritage dating back more than 200 years. It is composed primarily of small and medium-sized businesses, many of them family owned.
They fear extinction. Not from market factors, nor from consumers rejecting their products, but from their own government. The Obama Administration moved control of the cigar industry to the FDA, and after years of threats and uncertainty the FDA has shackled the cigar industry with a great number of unmanageable operational restrictions, not the least of which is severely limiting the introduction of new products. Even more restrictions are scheduled to follow in the coming months. All of these prohibitions are starting to strangle the industry.
Millions of Americans smoke handmade cigars. Firefighters. Policemen. Lawyers. Doctors. Professors. Congressmen. Judges. Members of our military. Friends of yours and friends of mine. Adults from all walks of life. Working Americans who every day contribute to our society and our economy.
While President Trump has voiced his outrage at overregulation in the United States, and has taken on deregulation as a major policy initiative, the cigar companies who represent this great industry find themselves in dire need of relief.
More than $3 billion was spent on lobbying last year alone in the United States, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Look at the spending by sector: the pharmaceutical industry alone spent $246 million on lobbying last year. The insurance industry spent $147 million, oil and gas spent $119 million, and the auto industry $62 million.
The small, handmade cigar industry doesn't have that type of financial strength. As a result, it's being swept under the carpet, lumped into the far-larger cigarette and machine-made cigar industries, which it has nothing to do with and wants nothing to do with. The handmade cigar industry has had little say in its own affairs.
In order to comply with the FDA's new restrictions, cigar companies are facing the prospect of enormous new costs—hundreds of thousands of dollars per company—that are onerous, burdensome and most of all unnecessary.
A new study, partially funded by the FDA—yes, your FDA—and published on January 26 in The New England Journal of Medicine, documented that premium cigars are not being smoked by the youth of America. The two-year study looked at the behavior of more than 45,000 people, including 13,651 youths, and found that the number of youths who frequently or regularly smoke handmade cigars was less than one percent—statistically irrelevant. Handmade cigars are enjoyed by adults, period.
We need your help. If left unchecked, these new FDA regulations will destroy the handmade cigar industry, and the tens of thousands of American jobs it supports.
The families who work in this industry are not looking for special treatment. They only ask for just and fair treatment. The right to sell a legal, handmade product to consenting adults. The right to pursue the American dream.
I ask you to please look into these unfair and unjust restrictions the FDA is forcing down the throat of this proud and venerable industry.
Marvin R. Shanken
Editor & Publisher
CC: President Donald Trump
CC: Vice President Mike Pence
CC: Tom Price, Secretary of Health And Human Services
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