Cigars are not a habit, but a lifestyle for many of us. From the nostalgic aroma of our favorite stick to the company kept while smoking. Our lounges are a safe haven we can escape to after a hard days work, enjoy a conversation with dear friends or perhaps meditate to a background of Latin jazz while smoking something new. Personally, it's difficult to imagine my life without cigars in it. Over a cigar I have made the best of friends, shared the fondest memories and relaxed along the warm sands of my favorite beaches. It is within this industry that I have found a passion and experienced a culture of art, history and hard work. This is why it is so important for us all to stick together and defend our cigar rights!
The threat of FDA interference is all but new for those of us who follow the industry news. However, that threat has speared into a promise that is rapidly approaching us all.
This is a wake-up call not only for those of us in the cigar industry, but especially all consumers, as it once again infringes upon our rights as adults to exercise freedom of choice. The beef starts with cigar smokers, but in the larger picture actually affects everyone. The argument and fight should grab the attention of the masses. Perhaps you are not a cigar smoker? Well today it's cigar smoking rights, tomorrow it WILL be something you are interested in.
On April 24th the FDA published over 200 pages of proposed regulation with the intention of expanding the same constraints currently placed on cigarettes to other tobacco products including pipes, e-cigarettes, hookah and premium cigars.
There are 2 proposed paths that the FDA will take. Option 1 is so terrible that you may as well throw away all your humidors, cutters and lighters and start knitting because if this first option passes...bye bye cigar lifestyle as we know it!
Option 1 -Would apply to all products meeting the statutory definition of “tobacco product,” i.e., any product “made or derived from tobacco” that is not a “drug,” “device,” or “combination product” (except for accessories of deemed tobacco products) • Examples: hookah, e-cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, novel tobacco products, and tobacco products that may be developed in the future
Here are some important bullet points regarding Option1:
*FDA would require approval and disclosure on all products released after Feb. 15 2007, meaning all manufactures would have 2 years to disclose ingredients and submit application for each product which will be reviewed by FDA and either approved or rejected. There are over 10,000 cigars sold in the market, some of which fall into the "grandfathered" category prior to Feb. 15, 2007 but many do not. How the FDA is planning on managing all the different applications has not been discussed. However the FDA track record is not very good as far as them being in any hurry to review and approve any tobacco related products.
*Any new cigar blends would have to get approval from the FDA before a manufacturer would be allowed release them to the market. It is believed that each application will cost around $2500. In addition, manufacturers will be charged over $1000 per ingredient and for each vitola separately. Imagine a company with 4 different sizes of a blend containing 4 different tobaccos would be paying over $50k in FDA fees. Not to mention the fact that the FDA will have no rush to approve these applications.
While there are some larger manufactures that will be able to withstand these hefty fees, many of the smaller cigar companies unfortunately will not.
*From a consumer stand point not only will we potentially miss out on a lot of brands we love, but will also pay much more for the existing brands still available since these high fees will trickle down into prices of each cigar.
*FDA will also ban any and all samples of cigars including any lounges or cigar events. It is also said that any cigar advertisement will be limited or banned as well.
*FDA will require health warnings to be placed on the top and front of all cigar boxes of all cigars regardless of their original date of release.
The second option is what we all need to push for. This option allows for premium cigars to be exempt from the bill. There is however debate as to what justifies a "premium cigar"
*FDA will allow an exemption for "Premium Cigars", however there is still much discussion as to what defines a premium cigar. Below is what the FDA has proposed as definition:
1. Is wrapped in whole tobacco leaf
2. Contains a 100 percent leaf tobacco binder
3. Contains primarily long filler tobacco
4. Is made by combining manually the wrapper, filler, and binder
5. Has no filter, tip, or non-tobacco mouthpiece and is capped by hand
6. Has a retail price (after any discounts or coupons) of no less than ten dollars per cigar
7. Does not have a characterizing flavor other than tobacco
8. Weighs more than six pounds per thousand units.
*FDA approval, new health warning labels, and the ban on sampling would NOT effect "exempt" products
*Age restrictions and banning vending machine sales would still be enforced upon "exempt" products
*There will without a doubt be division within the industry after a clear definition is decided for "premium cigars" as those who do not fall under this category will succumb to the aftermath of Option 1
Now the good news that many may or may not be aware of is that the FDA
is requesting all our public comments as to which option they should use. Premium cigars is the only product category to receive this proposed exemption. It's a good sign for us that the FDA is willing to consider this exemption. Now it is up to all of us to comment and spread the word throughout the cigar community and beyond! Our voices count if they are loud enough to get noticed.