During the 2017 IPCPR I took some time with numerous brand owners to talk about their blends and business in general. One of the questions I asked, was how are they handling the FDA regulations on the cigar industry. It is just about a year (August 8, 2016) since the FDA clamped down on our industry, and even though there has been news here and there about the possibilities of lifting them, it has not made it through as of yet. Of course we all have hope that level heads will prevail but the industry is not waiting to find out.
Recently some small and young cigar brands have decided to close shop, such as Baracoa Cigars, announced this past week. Danny Vasquez, owner of the 1 year old Baracoa brand and blender of the amazing Voyage cigar took to social media explaining his decision:
“It is with a heavy heart that I announce today, that Baracoa Cigar Company will be closing its doors and The Voyage has ended.
Due to the unsure state of the looming FDA regulations. I’ve decided that it is in the best interest for a company my size, to not move forward.
I want to thank everyone in the industry as well as the great brotherhood of cigar smokers for the amazing support and love that I have received over the past year. These memories will last forever with me. I will continue to be part of the cigar community as well as the social media groups that I have made so many new friends with.
Thank you for everything! And remember, NEVER SETTLE”
The New Normal
Others though, are finding ways to live in the new normal. Here is a compilation video we made from our interviews with 5 brands; Plasencia, Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust, Fratello, 1502, and Southern Draw. I particularly enjoyed the answer from the Plasencia family when I posed the question to them at their IPCPR media event.
The Debate Continues
So while legislators such as U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) fight a bi-partisan battle for us against the forces of those like U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) the battle is far from over. Senator Durbin spoke out against a premium cigar exemption and repeatedly cited incorrect statistics and falsehoods perpetrated by the federal bureaucracy and anti-tobacco advocacy groups, to argue that premium cigars are no different from any other tobacco product.
You can listen to the debate between Senators Rubio and Durbin with Senator Durbin in the following audio clip from the Senate hearing on the Markup of the Energy and Water Development, and the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Acts, 2018. The hearing was held this past Thursday, July 20, 2017. The portion on premium cigars begins at the 1:30:49 mark.
So as the debate continues on this topic, the industry will find a way to continue to survive, especially with the help of the IPCPR and the Cigar Rights of America (CRA) lobbying efforts. The best we can do is provide more education to consumers and shop owners, support the IPCPR and CRA, and continue to write and call our local representatives.