Cigar Aficionado

Fight to Prevent FDA Cigar Regulation Gets a Boost

The 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:

"I for one, applaud Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio for their efforts in reducing government over-site. Ridiculous laws that prevent shop or restaurant owners from allowing smokers are in place. Decisions like that need to be left up to the restaurant owners themselves, not government control. This is a step in the right direction. " —August 25, 2011 09:35 AM
"@ Ed...You are more than welcome to do your part for solving the "real problems" in our is part of what makes this country great. All you have to do is write or call your representatives to get the ball rolling. Have you been in touch with anyone of note in Washington? Created any movements pertaining to finance? Garnered support for your positions? Lobbied anyone? I recommend joining CRA, maybe it will give you some ideas on how to do your part!" —August 12, 2011 17:54 PM
"Please write to your congressman or woman. Also join the Cigar Rights of America to help fight these nanny state laws." —August 11, 2011 18:39 PM
"This is interesting, apparently Congress doesn't have enough to do with all the real problems in our Nation, especially in the areas of Finance. What a way to look out for the country as a whole!!" —August 11, 2011 15:47 PM