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Written by Puff Staff

Sunday, 11 August 2013

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Tags:
cigar legislationcuban embargo
tobacco legislation


This week, the U.S. Congress is starting its annual month-long summer vacation after months of doing, well, not much. That means your Congresscritter may be in your neighborhood, trying to scrounge up money and votes for next year.  Do you know where they stand on the cigar and tobacco issue?

 

 

 

 

Here’s a look at the friends and foes of tobacco who have served in Congress over the last few years, and what they’ve done for (and against) smokers. As some former members have found out, aligning yourself with Big Tobacco can be very lucrative but sometimes hazardous to your political health. Being for or against tobacco can definitely bring out the most colorful behavior in politicians.

The most formidable foe of tobacco in any form has to be Rep. Henry Waxman, a veteran Democrat of over 20 years who represents some of the most affluent areas of SoCal including Beverly Hills, Pacific Palisades and Hancock Park. For most of his political life, this “reformed smoker” has been on a crusade against all things tobacco.

 



Waxman is largely responsible for the passage of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act in 2009. Back in 1998, Waxman conducted an undercover tobacco sting inside the Capitol complex by sending two teenage girls out to buy cigarettes from snack shops and vending machines. Not surprisingly, both scored.

Waxman also scolded N.C. GOP Rep. Richard Hudson for chewing tobacco during a Congressional committee hearing. According to Waxman, house members “should not be chewing tobacco during committee hearings and markups. These are televised proceedings and, believe it or not, public figures can be role models. Members flaunting tobacco use sends the wrong message to kids.” On the positive side, Hudson did use a cup for spitting instead of aiming at one of the two spittoons still in use on the House floor.

The cigar industry does have some friends in high places, and when The Traditional Cigar Manufacturing and Small Business Jobs Preservation Act of 2011 was introduced to combat efforts by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to regulate premium cigars, several prominent senators and congressmen were on board. Former Georgia Senator Saxby Chambliss and Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee released this statement: “As the FDA continues to implement the Tobacco Act, we urge it to recognize the fundamental differences between premium cigars and other tobacco products.”

Members of congress supporting their efforts included Rep. Bill Posey, Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Rep. Kathy Castor of Florida, Rep. Candice Miller of Michigan, Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, Rep. Nick J. Rahall of West Virginia, Rep. Marsha Blackburn and Rep. Jim Copper of Tennessee, Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan, Rep. John Kline of Minnesota, Rep. Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia, Rep. Sue Myrick of North Carolina and Rep. Charles Boustany, M.D., of Louisiana. If any of these happens to represent your district, send them a nice thank-you note.

 



Another cigar lover is GOP Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado, who in 2007 was relaxing with a smoke in his office when he got an unexpected visit from the D.C. cops. It seems that the smoke from Tancredo’s cigar had wafted into the next-door office of Minnesota Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison, who took umbrage at the smell of tobacco. Alas, their private offices are just about the only place that members of Congress are still allowed to smoke. On the bright side, Tancredo doesn’t have the office next door to Henry Waxman.

One former Congressman whose fondness for tobacco—and tobacco money—contributed to the loss of his seat found a silver lining. Republican Steve Buyer represented the state of Indiana for 18 years and was known for advancing the interests of the tobacco industry. In 2009, he gave a rather bizarre speech in favor of smokeless tobacco.

When I say bizarre I mean pretty far off the reservation when it comes to making any sense at all.  Keep reading to see what he said.






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