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Senator Speaks Out in Support of Cigars

Yesterday, the American premium cigar industry received a vote of confidence in a very public way from a United States Senator.

Sen. Patrick Toomey (R-Pennsylvania) held a press conference on Tuesday afternoon in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, at the headquarters and warehouse of Internet giant Cigars International, speaking out against Food and Drug Administration regulation of the premium cigar industry. Toomey is one of 13 U.S. Senators and 219 Congressmen who are in support of House Resolution 1639, a bipartisan bill that seeks to exclude premium cigars from FDA regulation.

The FDA was given control of the entire U.S. tobacco industry in 2009 when President Barack Obama signed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act into law.

Cigarmakers fear that the FDA will impose limits on their business, threatening their worker’s jobs and the right for connoisseurs to enjoy a fine cigar.

“Now folks, there’s never been any evidence that there’s an epidemic of young kids smoking $10 cigars. This is just not happening,” said Toomey. “Now the FDA taking this authority that was granted under this regulation and using it to regulate premium cigars would be a classic case of a solution in search of a problem. And, unfortunately, this kind of solution would mean fewer jobs and an economic downturn for this entire industry, this entire sector. And we don’t need it.”

Pennsylvania is one of only two states without a tax on large cigars, and it’s a major employer for the cigar industry, as a headquarters for mail-order and Internet cigar retailers and also as a source of cigar production. In addition to Cigars International, Ashton Distributors Inc. (and its retail arm, Holt’s International) and several other companies in the industry call it home, and it employs thousands.

“I think it’s fantastic that a U.S. Senator is coming out in support of our industry, for he sees the danger of overreaching of the FDA—which could destroy the premium cigar business as we know it,” said Ashton president Robert Levin, who attended the conference.

Florida is the only other U.S. state without a tax on large cigars.

David Jude Huntington, West Virginia, USA, August 8, 2012 9:34pm ET
Proud to say that West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin is a co-sponsor of this bill.
Frederick Amodeo Bellport, New York, USA, August 9, 2012 7:18am ET
BRAVO! I am a cigar aficionado, I support my local cigar lounges and shops, I purchase and travel to Cigars International, Holt's, Famous Cigars and others since I live in New York. I applaud Senator Toomey and all the others in Congress that have applied common sense to a crazy, frenzied state of control over so many of personal liberties and enjoyments in people's lives. I respect those who choose not to smoke, I am totally against children smoking and I am 100% behind leaving cigars out of the FDA control! Thank you all! I am also a CRA member.
George Edmonson Tarpon Springs, FL, USA, August 9, 2012 11:50am ET
You mention that Pennsylvania is one of two states without a tax on large cigars. In addition to Florida, I thought New Hampshire also had no large-cigar tax?
George Edmonson Tarpon Springs, FL, USA, August 9, 2012 11:53am ET
You mention that Pennsylvania is one of two states without a tax on large cigars. In addition to Florida, I thought New Hampshire also had no large-cigar tax?
Also, as I've tried telling several of the involved groups, the 219 figure (counted, I believe, from is erroneous because it includes David Wu, who resigned some months back and Madeleine Z. Bordallo, the rep from Guam who has no vote.
David Savona August 9, 2012 12:02pm ET
New Hampshire has no tax on premium cigars (it defines cigars differently than most of the other states when talking taxes). And I should also point out that Texas has a very, very modest large cigar tax. So, in essence, there are four U.S. states with little to no tax on the types of cigars CA readers enjoy smoking. Thanks for pointing out New Hampshire.
joel hoffman scranton, pa, usa, August 9, 2012 11:16pm ET
sorry but they charge a tax on cigars in PA thats aside glad to see hekept his word i wroteto him about this problem and hesaid he was against the bill
Josh Rizzuto Audubon, Pennsylvania, United States of America, August 10, 2012 10:37am ET
Pennsylvania has a sales tax on cigars. There's no special tax above the price of regular sales tax in PA. I actually really like Senator Toomey, I went to high school with his son, and he always seemed like a good guy. One of the only people on The Hill that may actually have half of a brain.
Jimmy Russ Crystal Springs, Florida, USA, August 10, 2012 12:10pm ET
I'm glad that both of my state's senators are co-sponsors. Of course, being from Florida they'd better be if they have hopes of re-election.
Paul Mignini Dallas, TX, USA, August 13, 2012 4:27pm ET
I'm glad to see Senator Toomey add his voice to what is a growing number of legislators who understand the FDA's attempt to overregulate. As mentioned, cigars are a significantly different animal than cigarettes in terms of the maturity of it's target customers. Further, cigar lounges are generally self-contained spaces where people make the conscious choice to participate, or not, as is the function of our capitalist, free-market model.

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