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Written by Puff Staff

Saturday, 30 June 2012

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fdaleadLast week, we told you how the FDA plans to regulate cigars in a manner similar to the way it regulates cigarettes. Now we’re revealing how the makers and sellers of fine cigars are fighting back.

One of those leading the fight is Glynn Loope, executive director of the activist group Cigar Rights of America. The Virginia resident has been crossing the country, spreading the word about the proposed FDA regulation of cigars. Loope explained in an interview, “Done 28 states in the last 24 months, and we’re back and forth to Washington 2 or 3 days a week, so the cigar industry for the first time in its history is getting its act together politically.”


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Some anti-smoking groups have promoted cigar regulation as another step in keeping tobacco out of the hands of children, but Loope disagrees. “Children don’t buy 10 dollar cigars. Price point alone keeps these out of the hands of America’s youth. They’re enjoyed by adults in moderation. The average cigar smoker smokes two cigars a week. It’s clearly not addictive.”

Cigar aficionados have a friend in Congress—actually, about 200 of them. In its recent 2012 Agriculture Appropriations bill, the House Appropriations Committee reminded the 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.”

Bill Spann, CEO of the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association which represents over 2,000 tobacco retailers and more than 350 cigar manufacturers and distributors, agrees. “If you’re going to focus your efforts on regulating tobacco products to meet the spirit and intent of the Tobacco Control Act, where is best to spend those scarce resources—on a tenth of a percent of the market or on a huge chunk of the market?”

Spann has a point, since cigars account for only seven percent of the U.S. tobacco sales market, and of the seven billion cigars sold each year, just 250,000 million of them could be considered premium cigars. Premium cigars are usually handmade and sell for $6 to $30 each. He compares premium cigars to fine wines and craft beers, other products aimed at adults.

Spann thinks this makes them unlikely to be purchased or used by minors. “You don’t have a middle-schooler or high-schooler standing on the corner with a $15 Davidoff sticking out of their mouth.”

Another potential problem with the FDA regulations is they may restrict the way cigar buyers are allowed to shop for their smokes. Craig Cass owns a chain of specialty tobacco shops in North and South Carolina, where smokers can peruse the selection in their walk-in humidors and puff on their purchase in the lounge.


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Cass says the wide selection of cigars is a part of the experience. “All of that range of flavor is very unique to every single box in the humidor. If we were like the other category of tobacco like a cigarette, you could walk in the humidor and have 10 boxes of cigars in there. ... We have 700.”





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