By U.S. Representative Bill Posey
Having faith in the U.S. Constitution, I have always maintained that it is the responsibility of the federal government to protect our liberty and promote a free and competitive economic environment. Sadly, legions of unelected bureaucrats in Washington think otherwise. Instead, they wake up every morning looking for ways to grant themselves sole authority to regulate virtually every aspect of our daily lives.
For the last four years, I have collected the Federal Register, the daily publication that prints the countless regulations that carry the force of law yet are written by people who don’t have to face the public in an election or answer your phone call. This ever-growing stack of regulations now measures over 60 linear feet and has turned my Washington office into a tourist attraction, as many members and constituents come by to have their picture taken with it.
Back in 2010, someone thankfully caught the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) legal jargon, buried in a copy of a Federal Register, where the FDA noticed plans to regulate cigars—all cigars, from premium cigars that are handrolled in leaf tobacco to the cigarillos you find at your gas stations. This was a wake-up call for any American who wanted to simply enjoy a premium cigar. Every small-business owner and freedom-loving American should be paying close attention.
In 2009, Congress passed and the president signed legislation to help prevent teenage smoking and limit youth access to tobacco products. That law cited specific types of tobacco known to be used by minors. When members of Congress publicly debated this legislation on the House floor, there was no mention of regulating premium cigars. That’s not surprising since everyone knows these products are enjoyed exclusively by adults. Premium cigars aren’t even mentioned in the bill. Yet the FDA cites this bill to justify its authority for moving forward with sweeping new regulations governing all tobacco products, including premium cigars.
You read the above correctly: Despite the clear intent of Congress, the FDA plans to issue new regulations in the coming months to restrict our freedom to enjoy the occasional premium cigar, and jeopardize the nearly 85,000 jobs associated with cigar manufacturers and small-business retailers in the United States.
Since noticing their plans, the FDA hasn’t been very public about how they would regulate cigars. Early on, based on experiences in other countries, it was feared that retailers could be forced to black out their windows and keep cigars out of view of the customer, too. No more public walk-in humidors or choosing your own cigar. A black-and-white catalog on the shop counter would replace the cigar shopping experience. As for those collectible cigar boxes, imagine requirements to slap a large anti-cigar graphic label on there or prohibit decorative boxes altogether.
When the FDA finally shared some draft proposed language for regulations, we remained very concerned. They concocted an arbitrary and unworkable $10 price point for cigars, meaning the FDA might leave premium cigars over that price alone. Cigar enthusiasts and retailers understand that there are many fine cigars under that price, and this would also create a costly enforcement nightmare, as it didn’t take into account discounts, bulk sales, taxes and other real-world scenarios.
Other potential FDA rules would result in the elimination of many seasonal and newer blends of cigars, since these could be subject to onerous, costly testing requirements. Even if an FDA spokesperson were to say, “If you like your cigar, you can keep your cigar,” that wouldn’t put us at ease. The problem is that fewer new products would come to market, and your favorite cigar would still be at risk if overzealous FDA lawyers decide that next year’s cigar is technically a “new” cigar, or the slightest modification to an established cigar’s filler, binder or wrapper constitutes a “new” cigar. See where this is going?
Around 150 members of Congress have joined me in co-sponsoring the Traditional Cigar Manufacturing and Small Business Jobs Preservation Act to get the FDA focused on its real job and leave premium cigars alone. This is about freedom for adults to enjoy a legal product and preventing small businesses from getting caught up in regulations that were never intended for them. I believe that’s worth fighting for, and if you agree, please consider reaching out to your elected representatives to let them know how you feel.
For contact information on your Senators and Representative, go to ipcprlegislative.org.