Florida, home to more cigar companies than anywhere else in the United States, is at the center of a battle for the cigar industry. Next week, the Florida Senate will vote on SB 1840, which would create a $1 per ounce tax on premium cigars.
The new tax, if approved, would be the second blow struck this year against Florida cigar smokers, who began feeling the effects of the 35 cent increase in the federal excise tax on cigars on April 1.
There are no standards for non-Cuban cigar sizes, so one company's double corona can be the same size (and weight) as another's corona gorda. Generally speaking, a toro might weigh about half an ounce and a Churchill about three-quarters of an ounce. "Currently, Florida has no state cigar tax. The SCHIP tax is causing the retail price of cigars to increase about $.80 to $1. Add the state tax on top of that and we are looking at another $.50 to $1 per cigar," wrote Jeff Borysiewicz, owner of Corona Cigar Co. in an email. "A $100 box of 25 Churchill cigars before SCHIP is now $125, and if Florida passes the state tax it will go to $150. This would all occur in a matter of three months."
"We are urging all Florida-based CRA members, manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and cigar enthusiasts to join our telephone calling campaign to the membership of the Florida Senate," wrote the Cigar Rights of America (CRA) in an email blast sent out late Wednesday afternoon. "Many of you have already written letters and we appreciate your time and effort in doing so.… Now, we are asking that you make a personal phone call to your senator and other members of the Florida Senate to express your opposition to the inclusion of cigars in SB 1840."
"I think it's very, very important that people in the great state of Florida, where cigar making has existed throughout history, protect their rights and call their senators," said Rocky Patel., president of Rocky Patel Premium Cigars. "We'd like for them to ask for an exemption."
For a list of senators, click here.
Look for more on this story in the next Cigar Insider.