In the two and a half months since Bill Spann took over as chief executive officer of the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association, the nation's largest trade association for premium tobacco dealers and suppliers, he hasn't stopped moving. He's got a lot of people to see, and a large battle to fight.
"Right now our biggest federal issue is H.R. 1639, and trying to keep the government out of our humidors," said Spann, 50, in an interview with Cigar Insider. That house resolution seeks to exempt the premium cigar industry from government FDA restriction, which could ultimately ban flavored cigars and prohibit walk-in humidors. "The intent of the congressmen was never to regulate premium cigars and keep adults from enjoying legal products," he said. "We don't see a teenager with a $15 Davidoff sticking out of his mouth, standing on a street corner. They don't smoke our product, they don't want our product; our product is out of their price range."
But the fight is also a local one, and helping the smaller, local organizations understand how to fight these regulations is one of Spann's top priorities. "We're also organizing states, so when the time comes we've got organized groups of retailers in all 50 states who already have relationships with officials," he said. "In order to be successful at the local level politically, you have to get to know these individuals before you need them."
Since taking over the office in mid-August (replacing Joe Rowe, who retired), Spann has been traveling, seeing various state smoking organizations as well as local shop owners. "They're wonderful people. They're hardworking, regular Americans that are easy to get along with."
Spann attended Kenyon College, spent 20 years in the U.S. Navy, and worked for Gov. Jeb Bush in Florida during his second term.