By: Glynn Loope
Over what seems an eternity, yet has only been since the 2016 “Final Rule” was issued by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration to regulate cigars, a tremendous body of research, testimony, interviews, commentary and narrative has been generated and issued on this clear case of bureaucratic overreach.
National media pundits, members of congress, ambassadors and judges have made note of their disdain, confusion and opposition to the approach being taken by this federal agency. It made this point in time seem like a unique opportunity to revisit some of the more noteworthy quotes or commentary, which work to tell the story of how one little industry has fallen victim to federal solutions in search of problems.
United States District Judge Amit Mehta, U.S. Federal District Court for the District of Columbia
“Requiring the premium cigar industry to incur substantial compliance costs while the agency comprehensively reassesses the wisdom of regulation, before the warning requirements go into effect, smacks of basic unfairness. In the court’s view, the prudent course would be for the FDA to stay the warnings requirement as to premium cigars. The court’s displeasure with the FDA’s handling of the status of premium cigars, no doubt, provides little consolation to the industry.”
Joint letter of the Ambassadors to the United States from the Dominican Republic, Honduras, and Nicaragua
“Some of the regulations that are proposed by the agency would prove disastrous to the centuries old cigar industry that provides over 300,000 jobs among our three nations, and represents millions of dollars in export revenue. No regulatory measure should threaten such jobs, and hence raise the specter of political and economic consequences within our region.”
Tucker Carlson, Host of Tucker Carlson Tonight on Fox News
“The FDA admits that these (cigar) regulations will destroy companies and jobs…The terrifying thing about this is, what are you going to do if you’re a business and you learn that some regulation written by an unelected bureaucrat can destroy you?”
Mark Steyn, as Guest Host on The Rush Limbaugh Show
“This is a classic example of an Obama era overreach by the regulatory state that Trump actually should be able to roll back and reverse.”
Dr. David Zorn, firm of Mangum Economics and author of the report “The Public Health, Financial and Employment Impacts of Excluding Handmade Cigars from Coverage by FDA’s Final Rule.”
“Compliance with the regulation will be so difficult and costly that it threatens to put almost all U.S. handmade cigar manufacturers and importers out of business. Using FDA’s own cost estimates, the regulation will cause 85-90 percent of domestic cigar manufacturers and importers (320-338 small businesses) to go out of business, leading to the loss of 5,300 U.S. manufacturing and importing jobs. Because handmade cigars have the highest cost of compliance per cigar, almost all of the cigar manufacturers and importers that go out of business because of this rule will be manufacturers and importers of handmade cigars.”
Dr. Brad Rodu, University of Louisville, in testimony to the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship
“All tobacco consumers in the United States deserve truthful information and guidance. The sweeping FDA indictment ignores scientific evidence and misleads cigar smokers.”
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio
“The FDA, in conjunction with the National Institute of Health, conducted a comprehensive study of tobacco use. The FDA’s own research concluded that premium cigar smokers account for 0.7 percent of all adult tobacco users and the median age of the first regular use is 24.5 years old. The FDA-NIH research was also unable to provide any data on youth that consume traditional cigars frequently or daily. This is because premium cigars are not made for children, marketed to children or consumed by children. This begs the question of why premium cigars are wrongly being regulated under a law aimed to reduce youth consumption of tobacco.”
U.S. Congresswoman Donna Shalala, former U.S. Secretary of Health & Human Services for President Bill Clinton
“Hand-rolled cigars constitute an important part of south Florida culture. While I am working to reduce nicotine addiction in the United States, I agree that premium cigars do not contribute to widespread addiction or youth usage in the same way that other tobacco products do.”
Testimony of Charles Maresca, Director of Interagency Affairs, for the U.S. Small Business Administration, to the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship
“For a small business cigar manufacturer, FDA estimates compliance costs to be $278,000 to $397,000 in the first year, $292,000-$411,000 in the second year, and $235,000 to $257,000 in the third year. Although many small businesses have argued that the costs will be much higher than FDA’s estimates, the agency’s own numbers will prove to be too much for most small businesses to pay to continue to manufacturer premium cigars.”
Former U.S. Congressman Lou Barletta
“You can argue that this (cigar regulation) is a national security issue, because when economies collapse in some of these countries, what usually fills that void is not anything that will be good for America.”
The statements made here represent only a fraction of the commentary and filings that have been made in the defense of the premium cigar industry. Collectively Cigar Rights of American, Cigar Association of America and the Premium Cigar Association have filed over a thousand pages of public comment to the FDA, in 2019 alone. This included definitive analysis on the demographic profile, public health issues, usage patterns, and implications of regulation. Thousands of pages have been filed in federal court making the case as to how this represents a clean case of bureaucratic overreach, dozens of presentations to executive branch agencies, and hundreds of congressional office briefings.
This has resulted in the full U.S. House of Representatives passing a proposed exemption for premium cigars from FDA oversight. The same language was been adopted numerous times in committee. The platform for this message has been the legislative agenda pursued by the premium cigar industry since 2011. Between April 15, 2011 and today, 333 bipartisan members of the U.S. House of Representatives and 33 members of the U.S. Senate have signed onto premium cigar exemption legislation, representing consumers of premium cigars from 45 states. Individual and joint congressional letters to both the Obama and Trump Administrations have included the signatures of over 100 legislators.
So what does this mean as we enter yet another Presidential Election year? We have sent the message to both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, and the court house the sits between them. It’s time for the bureaucratic cloud that looms over this artisan industry, to be removed before yet another uncertain November.