Sen. Marco Rubio Reintroduces Bill To Exempt Premium Cigars From FDA

Sen. Marco Rubio Reintroduces Bill To Exempt Premium Cigars From FDA
Photo: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has reintroduced a bill to the U.S. Senate aiming to protect premium cigarmakers from the FDA. Rubio, who has called FDA regulation of cigars “the epitome of government overreach,” introduced Senate Bill 9 on Thursday. The Senate has yet to provide a summary of the legislation, which aims to carve out an exemption for companies that make or market premium cigars from FDA regulation.

FDA regulation, as it stands now, makes it exceptionally difficult and expensive for companies to introduce new products, and all but impossible for new companies to break into the market. The regulations are particularly onerous to smaller companies, which make up the bulk of the handmade cigar industry. Companies that make cigars by hand have historically been quite dependent on creating new sizes, blends and brands.

On his website Friday, Rubio wrote that he would “continue the fight for small, traditional cigar manufacturers, a quintessential Florida industry, that are on the verge of being snuffed out by egregious federal overreach.” 

The cigar industry has a long history in Florida. Tampa and Key West were leading producers of cigars many years ago—in 1929 alone, Tampa cigar factories made 500 million cigars, all by hand. Today, Florida (particularly the Miami area and Tampa) are headquarters to most of the companies that sell handmade cigars.

Rubio has been a staunch defender of the cigar industry in his home state of Florida and among the most outspoken of Congressional critics of FDA regulation. One of the cigar companies he is aiming to protect is Tampa’s J.C. Newman Cigar Co., a 124-year old cigarmaker that still produces cigars in its Tampa factory. 

“We are not going to stand by and watch as J.C. Newman and small businesses like them are put out of business by a rule that was never supposed to apply to them,” Rubio said on the Senate floor in July.