Note: An upcoming column will cover an interview with the legendary Paul Garmirian of PG Cigars. He (literally) wrote the book on gourmet cigar enjoyment. And watch this space for a 25-cigar giveaway soon. How do you enter? Join the Cigar Hunter email list.
Last November I wrote a lengthy feature about the Food and Drug Administration’s plans to make premium, hand-rolled cigars subject to a list of regulations that currently cover cigarettes. Judging from the response, The Daily Caller struck a nerve. Nine months later, the federal government’s nanny-culture machine is still marching forward.
What’s changed, however, is the degree to which cigar manufacturers, retailers and consumers have pushed back. (RELATED: Cigar lovers, industry unite to snuff out FDA regulatory agenda)
Here’s a short recap: The FDA wants to ban the sale of cigars over the Internet or in any other fashion that’s not face-to-face. The agency’s rationale, as I explained in a speech last weekend, is that 15-year-olds are spending $15 of their disposable income on Cohibas and it’s impossible to “card” them online.
I know. Sheer idiocy.
The FDA also wants to put garish diseased-lung warnings on every cigar box, 5-pack, cellophane — you name it. And the proposed regulations would add a new tax (or ten) as well.
Now the push back: Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican Rep. Bill Posey, both from Florida, have legislation pending that would exempt hand-rolled premium cigars from whatever the FDA does. The twin bills use a weight formula to determine which smokes are beyond FDA’s reach.
The term “traditional large and premium cigar,” the bill says, “(i) means any roll of tobacco that is wrapped in leaf tobacco, contains no filter, and weighs at least 6 pounds per 1,000 count; and (ii) does not include a cigarette.”
That definition also excludes machine-made “little cigars” like Swisher Sweets, Tiparillos, White Owls and Phillies blunts — which is just as well. Cigars are cigars, and oversized cigarettes are just that.
Private-label cigars are all the rage these days, and Corona made a special edition, the “House Resolution by JC Newman,” to proselytize about the need for a congressional fix. (RELATED: Cigar Hunter: Radio talker Rusty Humphries launches ‘El Presidente’)
Instead of torpedos, Churchills and robustos, the different vitolas are named “Speaker,” “Chairman” and “Whip.”
Corona is selling boxes of 20 for just $80 each. Each box comes with a free cutter and an insert about the House and Senate bills — and a hat-tip to Cigar Rights of America (CRA), the lobbying group that’s beating the bushes for co-sponsors on Capitol Hill. (Corona Cigar Co. founder Jeff Borysiewicz is also CRA’s chairman.)