This is a critical time for cigar smokers. The Food and Drug Administration recently published rules to extend its strict control over all tobacco products—not just cigarettes—but it may yet exempt premium, hand-rolled cigars. That seems like good news for cigar smokers.
But there are some big storm clouds out there. Here at Cigar Aficionado, we define premium cigars—the ones we write about—as being made by hand, from 100 percent tobacco leaves and without any flavorings or filters. Period. No machine-made cigars—at all. The FDA largely agrees with that definition. But they put some limits on them: A true premium cigar must weigh more than six pounds per thousand, and cost more than $10. What!?
We rated 608 non-Cuban cigars in 2013. The majority of them—416 to be exact—cost less than $10, and only about 32 percent cost more than $10. In other words, under the FDA's new rule, about 70 percent of the cigars we rated last year wouldn't be considered premium cigars. That's just wrong. Even in our top 25 cigars of 2013, a list of the best cigars in the world that we rated, 12 of them came in less than $10.
We are the first to say that Cigar Aficionado focuses on the finer things in life. We do appeal to an educated, sophisticated and upscale audience. But a cigar doesn't have to break the bank. We've always called a cigar one of life's great, affordable luxuries. It doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg. In fact, a cigar shouldn't be priced out of the reach of a dedicated cigar aficionado. And, $10 is simply not a good gauge.
The really good news is that you, every smoker and every reader of Cigar Aficionado, can make a difference. The FDA is inviting comments from the public. It is imperative that the cigar-smoking community speaks out to argue for a realistic definition of a premium cigar. The FDA, thanks to intense efforts by the cigar industry and this magazine, has already gotten it mostly right. But now they need to hear from you—the people on the ground who walk into tobacco shops to buy cigars—about what constitutes a reasonable policy toward this product enjoyed in moderation by adults.
Follow the link below to tell the FDA you want an exemption for premium cigars. And, let them know in no uncertain terms that a premium cigar doesn't have to cost $10 to be considered premium. The government shouldn't force you to spend $10 or more on a good $7 cigar.
The comment period ends on July 9th. The time to act is now.