Yesterday, the American premium cigar industry received a vote of confidence in a very public way from a United States Senator.
Sen. Patrick Toomey (R-Pennsylvania) held a press conference on Tuesday afternoon in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, at the headquarters and warehouse of Internet giant Cigars International, speaking out against Food and Drug Administration regulation of the premium cigar industry. Toomey is one of 13 U.S. Senators and 219 Congressmen who are in support of House Resolution 1639, a bipartisan bill that seeks to exclude premium cigars from FDA regulation.
The FDA was given control of the entire U.S. tobacco industry in 2009 when President Barack Obama signed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act into law.
Cigarmakers fear that the FDA will impose limits on their business, threatening their worker’s jobs and the right for connoisseurs to enjoy a fine cigar.
“Now folks, there’s never been any evidence that there’s an epidemic of young kids smoking $10 cigars. This is just not happening,” said Toomey. “Now the FDA taking this authority that was granted under this regulation and using it to regulate premium cigars would be a classic case of a solution in search of a problem. And, unfortunately, this kind of solution would mean fewer jobs and an economic downturn for this entire industry, this entire sector. And we don’t need it.”
Pennsylvania is one of only two states without a tax on large cigars, and it’s a major employer for the cigar industry, as a headquarters for mail-order and Internet cigar retailers and also as a source of cigar production. In addition to Cigars International, Ashton Distributors Inc. (and its retail arm, Holt’s International) and several other companies in the industry call it home, and it employs thousands.
“I think it’s fantastic that a U.S. Senator is coming out in support of our industry, for he sees the danger of overreaching of the FDA—which could destroy the premium cigar business as we know it,” said Ashton president Robert Levin, who attended the conference.
Florida is the only other U.S. state without a tax on large cigars.