Joe Biden’s return to the White House, this time as president instead of vice president, seems fraught with a revival of misguided Obama administration policies.
At least that’s what U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio fears for one of Florida’s prime niche industries: cigar-making.
The Florida Republican has filed a bill to try to fend off excessive regulation on top-quality, handmade cigars from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Rubio maintained his “Traditional Cigar Manufacturing and Small Business Jobs Preservation Act” is critical to saving premium cigars from “excessive and overly burdensome regulations and fees.”
Partnering with Rubio in the effort, according to the senator’s office, are GOP Sens. Rick Scott of Florida, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Joni Ernst of Iowa, John Barrasso of Wyoming, Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, John Boozman of Arkansas and John Kennedy of Louisiana.
Rubio noted in a statement that he first raised this issue in 2011, and was joined by then-Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida.
“The premium cigar industry is an iconic staple in Florida’s economy,” Rubio said in the statement.
“For far too long, small and family-owned businesses have been facing the threat of regulation that could force many to close their shops. I am proud to reintroduce this legislation that would provide Florida premium cigar makers the certainty they need to continue their craft, and I urge my colleagues to swiftly pass this bill.”
Rubio discussed this issue in a newspaper op-ed in July 2019.
He pointed out that an FDA rule, finalized by the Obama administration in 2016, would mandate “premium” cigar manufacturers to regulate the “manufacture, import, packaging, labeling, advertisement, promotion, sale and distribution of premium cigars” themselves.
“The rule was intended to protect children from cigarettes and other tobacco products marketed to youth. I agree that children should not be targeted for tobacco consumption. However, the federal government’s own research proves what we already knew — children are not smoking hand-rolled, premium cigars and those manufacturers are not marketing premium cigars to kids,” Rubio wrote in a Tampa Bay Times op-ed.
“This rule’s practical effect will be devastating for the premium cigar industry — small businesses making and selling high-quality, handmade products — that will have to spend millions of dollars to comply with the same regulations as large companies mass-producing low-quality, machine-made tobacco products.”
Rubio noted that J.C. Newman, a Tampa cigar maker that sold $10 million worth of products a year, estimated that it would cost triple their sales to comply with the FDA’s rule.
“I support current laws which prohibit minors from smoking, but tobacco is a legal product and it’s wrong for Beltway bureaucrats to snuff out small manufacturers and retailers of premium cigars,” Rubio wrote in 2019.
“Any person who has seen machine-made cigarillos, or fat cigarettes, behind the cash register at their neighborhood gas station knows these products are vastly different than a hand-rolled premium cigar. And yet, unlike premium cigar makers, the large corporations that mass produce cigarillos have the financial means to comply with the FDA regulations so they will continue to be sold in mass quantities.”
“This overregulation is also unnecessary as it is already illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone under the age of 18. Even the FDA’s own research proves that underage tobacco users are not smoking premium cigars. Premium cigar smokers account for just 0.7 percent of all adult tobacco users and the median age of a person’s first regular use is 24.5 years old,” he added.
Rubio’s recent news release quotes Drew Newman of the J.C. Newman Cigar Co.
“From Tampa’s Ybor City to Miami’s Little Havana, handcrafted cigars have been an important part of Florida’s cultural heritage for more than 150 years,” said Newman.
“Today, Florida’s historic premium cigar industry supports thousands of jobs, from farmers to cigar rollers to retailers. We are tremendously grateful to Sen. Rubio for his continued leadership and advocacy in support of small, family businesses in Florida.”