We’re Making Some Progress by Frank Seltzer


This past week has been a pretty good one.  The Associated Press’s tobacco writer (yup apparently they have one) wrote a rather lengthy article titled Cigar lovers to FDA: A cigar isn’t just a cigar.  That story then was picked up in the Washington Post.

The story was decent, except for the idea that the 2009 law passed by the democrat-controlled House and Senate actually gave FDA authority over cigars.  Cigars were omitted from the bill’s language and the FDA has been pushing for it every since.  The article talked about the efforts to pass laws to help protect the premium cigar industry House Resolution 1639  (which has 206 sponsors) and Senate bill 1461 (which has 12 sponsors). (More  sponsors are needed. The IPCPR and CRA are working Capitol Hill to get more support for the legislation but nothing beats hearing from constituents in the home district. Be sure to contact your Congressman and Senator via the IPCPR’s legislative action pages…just click the above links.)

According to the article:

“U.S. tobacco sales topped $107 billion in 2011, but only 7 percent, or $7.77 billion, consisted of cigars, according to statistics from Euromonitor International. And of the 7 billion cigars sold annually, only about 250 million of them qualify as premium, handmade cigars that range in price from $6 to $30.”

Bill Spann, the CEO of the International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers Association, says premium cigars are the equivalent of fine wines or craft beers, adding “You don’t have a middle-schooler or high schooler standing on the corner with a $15 Davidoff sticking out of his mouth.”

Also this week,  the House Appropriations Committee passed a funding bill for the FDA and in the bill’s language came what is called a “stern warning” to the FDA.  The committee added this:

“The committee reminds FDA that premium cigars have unique characteristics and cost-prohibitive price points and are not marketed to kids. Any effort to regulate cigars should take these items into consideration.”

But that has not stopped the anti’s from frothing about children and cigars they say the IPCPR bills to protect small businesses (i.e. mom & pop cigar stores) would cover cheap mass produced cigars as well.

Spann, who will not comment on pending legislation, did say about the opposition’s lines, “That means they either have not read the two and a half page double spaced bill or they are lying.”  Personally I bet on the latter.  It is always about the children and no one ever mentions that it is already illegal for anyone under 18 to actually buy a tobacco product.

On Thursday, the Fox station in Tampa did a story on J.C. Newman  and the potential of the FDA control over cigars.  Newman, maker of Cuesta Rey, talked about the possibility of putting graphic warnings on tobacco products like the FDA is trying with cigarettes.  Eric Newman responded:

“One of our good selling cigars, Diamond Crown Julius Caesar, there’s a picture of my grandfather on the label when he was 20 years old,” said Newman. “I’ll be danged if I’m gonna put a picture of a dead baby, just because the government says so, right next to my grandfather.”

Packaging Truth

Speaking of packaging, in the U.K. the government is pushing for plain packaging for cigarettes.  This is a forerunner of what the anti’s want to do here.  It is not sitting well with consumers ( i.e. smokers).  Some of you may remember the BBC comedy show Yes Minister from the 80s and a staple of PBS until recently (thought it still may be airing somewhere in the US.)  But an English group called Hands Off Our Packs has produced a parody of the t-v show which actually hits on the truth about the government’s true motives.  And be sure to watch  the whole thing….it is for the children after all.

Hat tip to Chris Snowdon.

Cigar making up for Davidoff

Oettinger Davidoff (maker of the $25 cigars favored by little delinquents….not) reported its earnings and while they were down slightly because of currency fluctuations there was  encouraging news.  Sales were up slightly but the company’s  annual cigar production increased to 34.4 million cigars which is up nearly 7% from the previous year.  Davidoff makes the namesake Davidoff brand, along with the popular Avo  and Camacho.

Kalifornia done

Apparently the other side FINALLY has given up on Prop 29 which would have increased the cigar tax by over 70%.  The vote was close and the no side was winning but the anti’s refused to give up.  According to the Associated Press, the yes side is admitting defeat.

We are now about 28,000 votes ahead and with only 150 thousand left to count…it is game, set and match.  But the game is not over…according to the report the anti’s may try the legislative route and it adds:

“Missouri voters are expected to weigh in on a tobacco tax increase in November and similar taxes are working their way through the legislative process in the Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Illinois.”

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