As I explained in 2011, lawmakers did not craft the Tobacco Control Act of 2009 to regulate premium cigars. The law focused on keeping cigarettes, smokeless tobacco and roll-your-own-tobacco away from our children. In fact, throughout the congressional debate, “the word ‘cigar’ was mentioned just a hand full of times, and usually to note its ABSENCE from the bill.”
There was a reason premium cigars were not included in the law. As Bill Spann, who heads the industry efforts in Washington, told Roll Call last week, “Our product is not desired by, it is not marketed to, nor is it affordable by underage youth.”
Nonetheless, the FDA plans to release a new rule for public comment in April. The head of the agency’s Center for Tobacco Products said the rule “would deem products that meet the statutory definition of ‘tobacco product’ to be subject to FDA jurisdiction.”
If the FDA decides to treat premium cigars just like cigarettes and the cheap cigars sought by teens, the effect on the industry could be devastating. For example, walk in humidors could be banned, advertising could be curtailed and new, seasonal and vintage blends could be increasingly difficult to bring to market.
And make no mistake, these FDA regulations will destroy American jobs. Nearly four years ago, the city of Tampa saw nearly 500 jobs disappear when Hav-A-Tampa to closed its doors because of the 2009 tax increase.
Fortunately, a spokesman for Representatives Bill Posey (R-FL) confirmed to Roll Call that the congressman plans to reintroduce Traditional Cigar Manufacturing and Small Business Jobs Preservation Act, which would prevent the FDA from regulating premium cigars under the Tobacco Control Act. As I explained two years ago, this is not a handout or a bailout; it is merely an attempt to rein in a reckless bureaucracy and reaffirm the original intent of Congress.
You may not be worried about premium cigars, but you should be worried about tax-and-spend politicians and unaccountable bureaucrats who flagrantly defy the intent of the people you send to Congress. As the old saying goes, give them an inch, and they’ll take a mile.