Avoiding the Strange Death of the Cigar Industry

    How gimmicky marketing tactics could spell doom for the U.S. cigar industry

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    Strange Death of the Cigar Industry

    In his 2017 book “The Strange Death of Europe,” political commentator Douglas Murray argues that Europe is, in slow but certain fashion, committing suicide. Whether by unchecked mass immigration or declining local birth rates, Murray argues that European civilization is, with little opposition by Europeans, undermining its very existence.

    Comparing the cigar industry in America to Murray’s Europe might sound like a stretch. Unfortunately, it isn’t.

    Like Murray’s Europe, the cigar industry has a chief rival and threat: a powerful government agency called the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with a stated goal of completely eliminating tobacco use. It has demonstrated it will use any means necessary to put tobacco companies out of business. All it needs to enact sweeping, destructive regulations like plain packaging or defacto bans on new products entering the market is a compelling political reason—a reason that would make defending the industry politically untenable, even by staunch supporters like Florida Senator Mark Rubio.

    Such as, for instance, cigar companies marketing their products to children and adolescents.

    Of course, marketing cigars to kids sounds preposterous. Premium cigars are too expensive. Kids certainly don’t like cigars—most adults don’t either!

    But imagine with me for a moment a public hearing where FDA officials present images proving that cigar companies are seeking younger consumers by branding cigars to be attractive to kids.

    For instance, this could be done by making cigars that reference popular children’s show characters or by making cigars that look like candy bars.

    Will an 11-year-old kid spend $10 to buy a premium cigar? No, of course not. But whether it’s realistic or not doesn’t matter. All the FDA, or federal or state anti-tobacco legislators need to crush the cigar industry is a plausible harm to the public. Marketing tobacco to minors is at the top of the list of plausible harms, and it was the main driver behind Canada’s plain packaging legislation in 2019.