The International Implications for Regulating Cigars

The Impact of Cigar Overregulation

When we discuss the adverse economic impact of government action against the passion for and production of great cigars—whether it is smoking bans, taxation, or the profound and detrimental effects federal regulation can have on the overall premium cigar industry
—we discuss it in the context of the local cigar shop, the domestic supply chain or the corporations of manufacturers headquartered in locations ranging from Miami to Philadelphia.

Those manufacturers serve as the masterminds of blends, production, marketing and “selling the sizzle,” but there is another side of this equation that cannot be forgotten—the workers of Latin America who handle and orchestrate the production of those works of art, from the seedlings to the ship that delivers them to our shore.

This is where the federal regulation of cigars is most frightening. As Jorge Armenteros of Tobacconist University states, “We are living in a renaissance of cigar-making.” He’s right, as some of the greatest cigars in history are on the local shop shelves as we speak.

It’s a tribute to the creativity and innovation of new and old cigar-makers alike. It’s also a tribute to the nations of Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic for not only having the natural environment for the production of great cigars, but having the workforce dedicated to the skill needed to produce outstanding cigars. That impact spans to the nations of Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico, Costa Rica and across the Atlantic to the Republic of Cameroon, where more than 3,000 farms and workers are producing prized tobacco.
Several years ago, I spoke to a group at the Nicaraguan Cigar Festival in Esteli, and I said,

“I challenge any of you to smoke a cigar in the same way after you have looked into the eyes of these rollers, witnessed the care of their hands on that leaf and experienced the dedication and pride they have in their craft.” That’s an image I want every cigar enthusiast in America to have when they are enjoying that cigar among friends or alone on their back porch.

Now along comes the U.S. government with the threat of federal oversight and regulation of the industry—wanting, in many ways, to treat premium cigars more harshly than even the products that Congress actually told them to regulate. If regulation stems production by so much as a fraction, jobs critical to the stability of the Latin American economy will be at risk.

That’s why Cigar Rights of America has been diligent in communicating with the embassies of Latin America on the issue of federal regulation. Working together, a joint letter from the ambassadors to the U.S. from Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic expressing their serious concerns about the regulations was sent to the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and to offices of the Trump administration.

The letter notes, “If history is any precedent, some of the regulations that could be imposed by the agency would prove disastrous to the centuries-old cigar industry that provides over 300,000 jobs among our three nations and represents millions of dollars in export revenue. No regulatory measure should threaten such jobs and hence raise the specter of political and economic consequences within our region.”