Florida, the Courts and the New Dynamic in Washington

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Florida Cigar

Those passionate for great cigars, as well as those who make those moments with a cigar possible, know that the state of Florida is the foundation of this nation’s cigar supply chain, being a principle point of entry for cigars that make their way from the port of Miami to Maine, Michigan, Montana and your local shop. Now, with the comprehensive effort to mitigate the threat of the federal regulation of cigars, Florida can be (and has been) central to communicating the consequences of these regulations to the federal government. That process has begun.

On the congressional front, Florida members of the U.S. House of Representatives, Bill Posey and Kathy Castor, are taking the lead role for the call to a legislative resolution to protecting premium handmade cigars. Meanwhile, their colleagues in the U.S. Senate, Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, are advocating for the companion bill in that chamber.

Over a dozen members of the U.S. House of Representatives from Florida are co-sponsors of the legislation. It is no accident that the cigar industry has this support from the delegation. The members are simply representing their constituency because the economic footprint of the cigar industry spans from one end of the state to the other. Take these economic factors into consideration:

Impact of Regulation of Cigars on the State of Florida

Corporate Headquarters: Greater Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa and Naples are the location of more than 70 corporate headquarters for the premium
cigar industry.

Infrastructure: The premium cigar industry uses the ports of Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Tampa. In addition, Miami, Tampa and Fort Lauderdale are the base of operations for logistics and supply chain enterprises, such as bonded warehouses, trucking and distribution operations.

Manufacturing: Miami and Tampa are the base of operations for boutique production of premium handmade cigars, including enterprises owned by women and minorities that employ skilled artisans from the Cuban American and Latino communities.

User Fees: The new user fees imposed on the industry by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will take approximately $70 million out of the Florida economy and shift those dollars to the federal bureaucracy.

Agriculture: Clermont is now the base of operations for growing Criollo and Corojo tobacco to be produced into Florida premium cigars, as well as the corporate location for this new working farm and the Florida Sun Grown corporation.

Cigar Tourism: Tampa, West Palm Beach, Miami, Jacksonville, Fort Lauderdale and Ybor City are each home to major regional and national cigar-themed festivals and events that attract tourists to Florida from all over the nation.

Retail: Florida is among the top three bases of operations in the nation for premium retail tobacconists, with more than 400 retail operations for the retail cigar trade representing nearly 2,000 employees.

New efforts to convey this message on the economic importance of the industry to the state are taking on a new significance in the fight to protect premium handmade cigars from the heavy hand of the federal bureaucracy. Members of the Florida congressional delegation are planning new communications to the administration of President Donald Trump on the adverse economic consequences on the state if the FDA is allowed to move forward.

There have been new overtures to the office of Gov. Rick Scott to facilitate his support and advocacy with the administration and to mitigate the threat of the rule. Gov. Scott had previously gone on record with his concerns, but with the impending actions and timetables for the regulation by the agency new measures are needed at the highest levels of state government.

We need the cigar consumers of Florida to play an active role in this process. If you do business in Florida, urge your customers to contact members of the state legislature, members of Congress and Gov. Scott. Thank them for their support, and then ask that they redouble their efforts to protect Florida jobs, Florida businesses and the producers of your favorite cigars.

J. Glynn Loope is executive director of the
Washington, D.C.-based Cigar Rights of America

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.