Getting History on Our Side

    In addition to regulatory issues, CRA fights for cigar landmarks and U.S. production.

    Cigar Rights of America | J.C. Newman Cigar Co.

    For many years, Cigar Rights of America (CRA) has waged a battle on many fronts in Washington, D.C., to protect premium cigars from U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulation. Recently, CRA initiated a campaign of outreach to two departments within the U.S. government that have little to do with premium cigar regulation on a daily basis—but ought to.

    On Sept. 10, 2018, CRA sent a letter to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke regarding the Ybor City Historic District, a U.S. National Historic Landmark located in Tampa, Florida. On Sept. 21, 2018, a letter was sent by CRA to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue regarding the agricultural impact of the FDA’s regulation of premium cigars.

    In its letter to Secretary Zinke, CRA highlighted the importance of Ybor City and its cultural impact on the premium cigar industry. For over 120 years, premium cigars have been the lifeblood of this small community. Today, Ybor City is home to the nation’s last remaining cigar factory, the J.C. Newman Cigar Company, as well as the Arturo Fuente Cigar Company headquarters and a handful of small-business rollers that produce premium handmade cigars for tourists and locals alike.

    Unfortunately, with the onset of onerous regulations on premium cigar producers, the historical symbol of Ybor City is slowly being choked out.

    Secretary Zinke has an important role to play as the Trump administration revisits cases of regulatory overreach. It is imperative that Secretary Zinke weigh in on the effects that FDA regulation is having on Ybor City and the enduring symbol of premium cigar manufacturing to the National Park Service-designated National Historic Landmark.

    In its letter to Secretary Perdue, CRA highlighted the importance of the very crop that was fundamental to the foundation of our country. While premium cigar consumers would likely name the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Honduras as the key cigar-producing countries—often overlooked in the importance of production is the tobacco that is grown here at home in the U.S.

    Premium cigar tobacco is currently being grown in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts and Florida. These agricultural interests represent tens of millions of dollars in revenue and thousands of jobs. Unfortunately, as is the case in Ybor City, the FDA’s regulations are directly impacting the production of American premium cigar tobacco and the family farms that produce it.

    The effect is so great—especially in Connecticut, where premium cigar tobacco is one of the state’s largest cash crops, if not the largest—that Rep. Joe Courtney, a Democrat from Connecticut, sent a letter to former Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who served during the Obama administration, requesting that the U.S. Department of Agriculture perform an economic impact assessment before promulgation of FDA regulations. Not surprisingly, this letter went unanswered.

    Secretary Perdue is now in the position to take the action requested by Rep. Courtney by authorizing an economic impact analysis on the effects of FDA regulations on premium cigars.

    As you can see, there are many different ways that departments within the U.S. government can aid our efforts to halt FDA regulation. The outreach to Secretary Zinke and Secretary Perdue is part of CRA’s comprehensive strategy to advance the debate over FDA regulation throughout the government and to have as many key players weigh in with the Trump administration during this pivotal period in which the FDA is rethinking the regulation of premium cigars.

    Stay tuned for more updates as CRA and our colleagues throughout the industry continue the efforts to protect premium cigars from the heavy hand of regulation.

    This story first appeared in the November/December 2018 issue of Tobacco Business magazine. Members of the tobacco industry are eligible for a complimentary subscription to our magazine. Click here for details.

    Contributed by J. Glynn Loope, executive director of Cigar Rights of America. Photo courtesy of J.C. Newman Cigar Co.