Beyond the Show: Behind the Scenes of the IPCPR

    Many think of the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR) as just a show—and they’re wrong. From educating retailers on how to improve their businesses to its work on the state and federal levels, Tobacco Business goes behind the scenes of the IPCPR.

    Mark Pursell IPCPR

    The International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR) has a history that goes back to the 1930s. Since its beginning, this trade association has provided its members with business opportunities through events, annual conventions and shows. With the increase in anti-smoking legislation on both the state and federal levels, the IPCPR has taken an active role in advocacy efforts.

    Mark Pursell, CEO of the IPCPR, is an avid cigar enthusiast and has worked with trade associations since 1995. A majority of his work has been on the trade show side of business, so when the IPCPR presented a chance continue that work but to also focus on government affairs, Pursell leaped at the opportunity. Tobacco Business recently sat down with Pursell to discuss the current work and focus of the trade association known for its annual trade show in Las Vegas that will begin on July 10.

    Mark Pursell IPCPRTobacco Business: What would you say has been the biggest change for premium tobacconists between this and last year’s trade show?
    Mark Pursell: The fear level of the [U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s] deeming rule. Uncertainty naturally breeds fear, so we are working overtime to repeal the rule—or at least the most egregious aspects.

    What features or services outside of the trade show can members of the IPCPR benefit from?
    They can look forward to more information. The IPCPR has sent out 70 alerts so far in 2017 as issues warrant. We have also added a quarterly webinar series to educate our members throughout the year.

    The IPCPR’s main focus in the past year has been fighting against the deeming rules and regulations set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). What’s the latest update with the lawsuit?
    Recently we received a three-month extension in the upcoming enforcement dates within the rule. This was a direct result of the lawsuit. It forced the Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to acknowledge the issues the rule contains.

    With the lawsuit filed against the FDA, we saw the IPCPR partnering with other trade groups like Cigar Rights of America (CRA), the National Association of Tobacco Outlets (NATO) and the Cigar Association of America (CAA). In what other ways is the IPCPR working with these other organizations?
    We work with all three regularly. Currently we have partnered with the CRA and CAA on our industry litigation as we challenge the deeming rule in federal court. We work with NATO on local issues as they have a great record in the municipal arena.

    The IPCPR works on the state and federal levels. To create real change, which do you think is more important?
    Both. The federal issues, including the rule, affects everyone and can be seen as the air war. But the ground war is at the state and local levels. If you are subject to new local regulations, they can impact you drastically.

    Let’s discuss the trade show. How has or how will the FDA change this year’s show?
    The good news is that the rule allows business-to-business sampling, so the practical impact is little. However, uncertainty in any market is never good for business. We always have had the best products at our show and that will continue. We saw thousands of new releases last year as manufacturers got ahead of the Aug. 8 deadline. I think this year we will see real rollouts of many of those releases.

    In sum, what can people expect from IPCPR 2017?
    Great products only available at the show. Our best education lineup ever and wonderful special events. We’ve invested in education, bringing world-class speakers, and in helping our retailers improve their operations. We have also created some great networking events so peer-to-peer exchanges can happen. I encourage members to use our app and do some pre-planning to get the most out of their time at the show.

    Besides the deeming rule, what do you see as the next big area of concern that people should be focused on?
    If an import tax is proposed and has any legs, the federal issues will grow even more.

    What’s your vision for the IPCPR going forward?
    More educational services and product partnerships that will help our retailers.

    As a parting message before this year’s show, what would you like to say to our readers?
    Visit IPCPR.org once a week, check out the FDA toolbox and webinars, and make sure you join us today.

    This story first appeared in the July/August 2017 issue of Tobacco Business magazine. Members of the tobacco industry are eligible for a complimentary subscription to our magazine. Click here for details.