fight to prevent the Food & Drug Administration from controlling
the premium cigar industry recently received a major boost.
Last week, Florida Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, a Democrat and Republican respectively, introduced Senate bill 1461, otherwise known as the "Traditional Cigar Manufacturing & Small Business Jobs Preservation Act." The legislation aims to remove the FDA's jurisdiction over the premium cigar industry by amending the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.
The measure is the companion bill to H.R. 1639, which was introduced in May by lawmakers and pro-cigar lobbying groups Cigar Rights of America and the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association as a cooperative effort.
"We have been working with Nelson's office for a year," said Jeff Borysiewicz, an IPCPR board member, co-founder of the CRA and owner of the Corona Cigar shops in Orlando, Florida. "There's a lot of leg work in this bill. Both bills, really."
In 2009, President Obama granted the FDA full regulatory control of tobacco products, such as cigarettes, roll-your-own tobacco and smokeless tobacco when he signed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act into law. Cigars, however, were not included in most of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act's restrictions. They still are not. But the lingering fear among those in the cigar industry is that such limits could one day be imposed on cigars. Industry observers point to the example in Canada, specifically Ontario, as an example of what the future could hold.
There, a law known as the Tobacco Display Ban prohibits businesses from displaying tobacco products within retail stores, and any shop not registered with Canada's Ministry of Health Promotion must frost the glass of their walk-in humidors, to obscure the view from the outside. Customers aren't allowed to handle a cigar before buying one.
Rather than wait for such potentially industry-threatening legislation to occur, though, the CRA and IPCPR have decided to act. Members of both lobbying groups have been visiting Washington D.C., off and on (more heavily in the past year) to educate lawmakers and ask them to co-sponsor H.R. 1639. These efforts are starting to show, as 43 House members representing 22 states are now co-sponsoring H.R. 1639.
Although Congress is officially in recess at the moment, Borysiewicz says the lobbying effort does not have to cease. In fact, he asks that cigar retailers and smokers take advantage of the fact that many of these lawmakers are now back in their respective electoral districts and can be reached directly.
"If you're a small business owner, invite your representative to your cigar shop and show him around," said Borysiewicz. "We need cigar smokers to individually reach out to their senators and congressmen."
You can check out the CRA's petition to the FDA at: http://www.cigarrights.org/petition_FDA001.php