Mark August 30 on your calendar. That’s when the American cigar industry will get its day in court.
On that day, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia is scheduled to hear the lawsuit filed by The Cigar Rights of America, Cigar Association of America and the International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers Association against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. These three organizations—which represent cigar smokers, cigar companies and cigar retailers—have taken up the fight against the FDA to oppose its Final Deeming Rule, which places severe limits on how cigars are made and sold in the United States.
The people who champion the cigar industry claim—accurately—that the FDA’s Rule threatens the livelihood of cigar companies, imposes unreasonable demands and violates the First and Fifth Amendments.
The court date is an important one, for the FDA rules as they are written place handcuffs on cigarmakers, limiting their ability to function as normal businesses. The limits include severe restrictions on creating new products, the upcoming requirement to place onerous warning labels on cigar packaging and advertisements and draconian limitations on how cigars can be sold. Creating new cigars used to be limited only by the creativity of the maker and the desires of consumers. Now new product creation lies in the hands of the U.S. government, which requires hefty regulation fees and long testing protocols before a new cigar can come out.
And as bad as it is for existing companies, it’s even worse for anyone wishing to enter the business. Due to the FDA restrictions, any entrepreneur wanting to start a cigar brand would face costly and time-consuming restrictions on getting that cigar brand on store shelves. The rules were created by politicians without a clear vision of how premium cigars are made or enjoyed, and without any idea of how many of the companies making such products are small and entrepreneurial.
These FDA regulations simply cannot continue. The premium cigar business has too much to lose.
The court date has been a long time coming—this lawsuit was filed in July 2016. Originally the court date was set for July of this year, but in March the date was pushed back. The reason, according to court documents, was to give the new management of the FDA time to get accustomed to the issues about the case.
Our hopes are that this lawsuit succeeds—or that the cigar industry’s request for a Motion for Summary Judgment, made in February, results in the elimination of these FDA restrictions, and the much-needed exemption for premium, handmade cigars.
The people who make handmade cigars are the living embodiment of the American dream, hardworking individuals who have toiled to create products that we all enjoy. The law allows them to make and sell cigars. They pay more than their share of taxes. The only risk they should face is that of free and fair competition from other companies—not from their own government.
That’s the very least any business owner in the United States can ask.
We look forward to August 30.