The possibility of dark days for the tobacco industry is closer to a reality than ever before, but as retailers, consumers, and manufacturers the future is also bright if we get involved.
In 2009, President Barack Obama passed the Family Smoking & Prevention Act which left a loophole for the FDA involvement in the premium cigar industry. The law gave the FDA regulatory authority over all tobacco products, but to branch beyond cigarettes and smokeless, the agency must seek expanded authority. That is what they are doing with cigars, and why they must be stopped. If the FDA gets involved, the way we enjoy our right to smoke will be changed forever. Prohibition 2.0 will become a step closer to reality.
If the FDA has their way the days of the walk in humidor will be gone. Display cabinets will be gone. Purchases will have to be made via a menu and a tobacconist will select the cigar for us. The colorful labeling and fancy cigar boxes which contain wonderful works of art will be forced to black and white. Flavored and infused premium cigars will be banned. All cigar blends will have to be submitted to the FDA for approval which could change how tobacco is grown, cured, and aged. It will also substantially raise the prices of the products we spend our hard-earned cash on. Our freedom as consumers will be severely limited.
Thankfully, there is some bi-partisan politics at work in Washington DC, and for it to continue we need to get involved, TODAY. There is a bill before the House, HR 1639 that currently has 44 co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle. This bill for the first time will define Premium Cigars and exclude it from the sights of the FDA.
We need to act now, and let our local representatives know that the tradition of Premium Cigars does not target children. That these products contain substantially different and lower health risks than other tobacco products. Premium cigars are a niche market, with a distinct consumer base that represent one half of a percent of the overall tobacco market and that we should not be lumped into the same category as other tobacco products.
Contact your local tobacconist and ask them to hold a town hall style meeting where the local representatives from the government would be invited into the shop. Let them see first hand that this is an adult business. Let them see that in a sense a tobacco lounge is no different then the Elks, Knights of Columbus, and many other fine groups that do good for a community. Tell them how we organize fund raisers, send cigars to the troops, and other items that benefit even those who do not smoke tobacco products. Let your voice be heard, as it is we who put these men and women in office.
If we fail to act now this will result in another empty storefront on Main Street, America. According to Ron Melendi of the New York Tobacconist Association, “This is one issue that we cannot afford to be divided on. If you don’t have the time, make the time, before we are all out of time.”