CRA PCA Election 2020
By : Joshua Habursky, Director of Federal Affairs, Premium Cigar Association J. Glynn Loope, Executive Director, Cigar Rights of America
Every election matters. Every two and four years, we seem to hear that a lot. But this time, it’s really serious, especially if you enjoy, sell or make premium cigars. The premium cigar industry has come too far, made such progress, and has a feeling of momentum in the campaign against intrusive and economically threatening federal regulations. This election can maintain that progress, or bring it to a halt.
The premium cigar industry has an obligation in the coming months to be politically engaged during this election cycle. The industry trade groups, manufacturers, retailers, and consumers must be active ambassadors showcasing the distinctiveness of premium cigars to elected officials at all levels of
government. The viability and sustainability of the entire premium cigar supply chain is at stake. The same holds true with ballot measures, legislative seats and governor’s offices across the nation. To protect all that is special and unique in our passion for great cigars, the ballot box holds the key.
Premium cigars are not a Republican or Democratic issue, but an area where there are champions and opponents on both sides of the aisle. Engagement by premium cigar enthusiasts is critical. With over three million cigar consumers spanning all fifty states, a powerful voting bloc exists that can tilt an election outcome. States such as Pennsylvania and Florida represent the economic axis of the premium cigar industry, and they are critical for the presidential electoral map.
“Cigar Voters” can swing these states, and many others. Community retail tobacconists can mobilize their patrons, manufacturers have vast social media reach, consumer cigar clubs can voice their support or opposition to candidates, shops and consumers can host cigar town halls and carry-out email and calling campaigns to incumbent and candidate offices on our issues.
In 2012, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the future FDA Commissioner, penned an article called “Bam’s Cigar Trouble,” making the argument that an aggressive FDA agenda against premium cigars could, in fact, tilt an election outcome in Florida. He saw it. So should we. In 2016 Cigar Aficionado magazine ran a series of readership polls. When tens of millions were being spent by the major candidates on polling, and got it wrong, the Cigar Aficionado poll “called it.’ We don’t say this in a partisan context; it’s just that both of these anecdotes point to a single political reality – We have more power than one would think.
The premium cigar industry and consumer supporters need to become informed on the issues, and research the candidates that support the sale and enjoyment of perfectly legal products to discerning-of-age adults. The Premium Cigar Association (PCA) and Cigar Rights of America (CRA) will be working in the coming months to help facilitate opportunities for political engagement as well as continuing to advocate for current elected officials who “get it.”
The Premarket and Substantial Equivalence deadline is set to go into effect on September 9, which would present the most widespread and problematic challenge that the industry has confronted to date. The entire premium cigar industry needs to be engaged in advocacy during this time to put pressure on Congress and the White House to provide regulatory relief before this deadline. Subsequently, what happens in September should be remembered on November 3.
The premium cigar industry can be protected if everyone is working together and making the necessary investments in their time to be informed and engaged participants in the political process. We cannot afford to have people sit on the sidelines and stand idle during these challenging times. Elections Matter.