|A recap of what the Cigar Rights of America did for us last year.If you are not a member, consider joining and protect your rights.
Taking on the US Food and Drug Administration
CRA tirelessly and actively spread the word about the massive power the FDA could exert over premium cigars and orchestrated an industry-wide effort to influence the agency’s forthcoming final rule through 400,000 messages to Congress, over 40,000 petitions to the White House, and a vigorous campaign during the public comment period with the FDA.
The FDA announced their intent to regulate premium cigars nearly five years ago, and on April 24, 2014, the agency’s Center for Tobacco products released 241 pages of proposed regulations with an unprecedented attack on your passion for premium cigars. Because CRA and industry allies banded together, an opportunity for an exemption was presented. This is proof that persistent lobbying and working to defend the true nature of premium cigars – a source of relaxation when alone and camaraderie among friends – works. Now we have to work to make that exemption a reality.
CRA foresaw the FDA’s blueprint for regulation and took action
CRA facilitated the creation of a bipartisan coalition within Congress who will defend cigars from decimating federal regulations. In the months prior to the rule’s issuance, CRA’s legislative staff held several hundred meetings with members and staff of Congress in support of HR 792 and S 772, bills that would exempt premium cigars from FDA regulation. In the 113th Congress there were over 180 bipartisan co-sponsors in both houses.
Also in April and prior to the release of the deeming regulations, CRA collaborated with the International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers Association to craft a letter signed by 32 House members to the House Subcommittee on Appropriations titled “Protect Small Businesses at Home.” It urged the FDA not to go beyond the original intent of the Tobacco Control Act and to restrict funding to the FDA should they engage in regulatory overreach. Both before and after the deeming regulations were issued, the FDA received several other similar letters from members of Congress supporting an exemption—campaigns CRA facilitated.
CRA and our supporters sent a clear message to the FDA
After the FDA released its deeming rule and opened it for public comment, CRA crafted a comment that included health and economic impact analyses guided by both a medical doctor and an economist. We gave direction to consumers, retailers, and manufacturers on how to write and submit comments. For consumers, we created a web portal with talking points, a direct link to the FDA docket, and instructions on how to submit. CRA personally collected over three thousand paper comment letters from individuals and retailers and mailed them to the FDA. On the final day of the comment period, our office was open until midnight to help supporters post comments to the docket. Thank you to all who took action and submitted comments to the FDA.
Battles extend to States and Localities
CRA also addressed a multitude of bans, taxes, and regulations introduced in states and localities in the last year alone. While some of these like Washington HB 1750 are favorable to the premium cigar industry and individual freedom, most are not. CRA researched and disseminated critical information (web-based petitions, instructions on contacting legislators, etc.) about the following issues (not an exhaustive list). With your help, Cigar Rights of America:
- Took action against statewide smoking ban proposals in Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, West Virginia, Illinois, and Missouri
- Took action against local smoking ban proposals in New Orleans, LA; Sacramento, CA; Mecklenburg County, NC; and Lubbock, TX
- Took action against a premium cigar tax increase in Ohio Tucked away in House Bill 472 was a call to increase the rates of taxation on premium cigars from 17 percent to 49 percent. This drastic increase would be incredibly harmful and threatening to premium cigar enthusiasts and the small business community in the state
- Took action against a cigar tax increase in Pennsylvania – Senate Bill 1292
- Took action against a cigar tax in New Jersey Senate Bill 1867 would place a $2.70 tax on each cigar sold
- Took action against a premium cigar tax in Wisconsin Assembly Bill 481 would greatly increase the cost of premium cigars in the state of Wisconsin, placing a heavy burden on the small business retailers who sell premium cigars and likely driving business out of state
- Supported cigar protections in Washington State House Bill 1750 is a pro-business and pro-premium cigar bill that would protect premium cigar retailers and lounge owners in the state of Washington
- Supported retail tobacconist protections in Michigan House Bill 5159 is another pro-business bill which would allow the enjoyment of legal tobacco products on restaurant patios
- Took action against a smoking ban in Nebraska Last August, Nebraska’s Supreme Court ruled that an exemption in the state’s smoking ban allowing cigar shops and bars to allow smoking was “unconstitutional special legislation”. CRA is active with likeminded associations in fostering a legislative solution to supersede this ruling and has been asked to assist with the fundraising needed to lobby for the necessary legislation
For all of the instances above and many others we did not have space to mention, Cigar Rights of America personally took your concerns to your leaders and rallied consumers via action alerts, CRA’s e-newsletter, and social media outlets.
CRA’s National Cigar Policy Center: A tool to protect premium cigars
In response to the many damaging laws and regulations being proposed around the country, this summer CRA created theNational Cigar Policy Center (NCPC) to provide real examples of practical legislation already introduced at the state and local levels that would protect cigar enthusiasts and retail tobacconists’ freedoms. These serve as models to legislators in other states and localities of what they can do to protect their constituents from burdensome policies.
The NCPC is a living compendium of model legislation protecting premium cigars
In 2015, cigar enthusiasts will confront new challenges as never before. Within the next several weeks, over half of the country’s state legislatures will go into session. We will ask you to voice your opposition to new regulations that are being proposed as you read this letter.
Our grassroots efforts and successful advocacy depends on the continued support of cigar enthusiasts like you. Thank you for your commitment, and receive our best wishes to you and your family in the New Year.
Stay informed, and find out how else you can support CRA online at www.cigarrights.org.
J. Glynn Loope Executive Director