In yet another example of Washington's antibusiness policies, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced sweeping new regulations on the American cigar industry on May 5. If left unopposed, they will radically reshape the handmade cigar business in this country and threaten your legal right to smoke a cigar.
The rules are onerous. They include the banning of free cigar samples, a prohibition on releasing new cigar brands (even new sizes to existing brands) without lengthy and expensive government approval and the requirement for large government warnings on cigar boxes.
This is overregulation of the worst sort.
Requiring government approval for new products is the harshest of the FDA rules. Any cigar that was not on the market on February 15, 2007—nearly 10 years ago—will have to undergo a registration and approval process that could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. That's a vast sum, especially for small companies.
The handmade sector of the cigar industry produces only 300 million cigars annually, a fraction of the 12 billion machine-made cigars sold each year. Many of the companies that make handmade cigars are small, making cigars by hand in artisanal fashion, using time-honored methods. They are produced solely from tobacco leaves and sold to adults, most of whom smoke them in moderation.
The FDA rules were aimed at Big Tobacco, at cigarettes, but the real punishment is being meted out to the little guy. It's a classic example of big government impeding small business.
These anti-cigar restrictions were crafted by a bureaucracy that disregards common sense and freedom. The rulings are the work of Mitch Zeller, the director for the Center for Tobacco Products, created by the Obama Administration in 2009. This organization has shown only contempt for the cigar industry.
As this issue was being printed, the FDA rulings had yet to go into effect. The ordinance becomes law in August, but even then there will be a period of as many as two years before all the changes are implemented.
There is still hope. There are bills in the House of Representatives and in the Senate—supported by both Republicans and Democrats—that would carve out an exemption for handmade cigars, keeping them away from the burden of these FDA regulations. Making those bills into law requires support, and your voice can help.
Reach out to your Congressmen and Senators now to tell them you want an exemption for the handmade cigar industry. Visit this website, http://bit.ly/1ThXnGg, enter your zip code and reach out to your legislators.
The threat is real, and only a unified action by cigar lovers can stop Washington from ruining this industry. Act today.
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