FDA and Premium Cigars


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This just out! If you haven’t read section VII of the FDA Rules for tobacco products you better!  For the past several years there has been increasing talk about the looming desire by the FDA to control all tobacco products, not just cigarettes.  Like many, there has been outrage that our “hobby” and our “passion” could be under fire.  However, I believe there has been some part of a lot of us that has also been in denial.  I know I for one would sometimes think that it was somwhere in the far future and not imminent danger.  I was wrong to even remotely think that.  If you can’t tell from reading the FDA Ruling, the day has come.

Now does this mean we should go with our knee-jerk reactions and run out and start buying up every cigar we can possibly jam into our humidor?  I suppose the manufacturers and retailers would be ecstatic now but in the end that wouldn’t stop the FDA from implementation of these new rules in three years.

After reading section VII about premium cigars, I was feeling sick thinking that my beloved CigarFest along with other popular cigar events might become things of the past due to the no “free” cigars being allowed to be given out.  Then I got to thinking about all the great brothers and sisters I’ve met while smoking cigars.  The conversations that we get into while enjoying the immense social aspects of cigars made me think about our power.  We have something that other subsections of the tobacco industry don’t have; we are a united group.  When a brother or sister of the leaf is in trouble, what do we do?  We commiserate and find ways to support and help them.  We have one of the tightest knit  and best networking groups in the world.  Second to the military services in my honest opinion.  We understand what cigar smoking is truly about.  It’s not about an “addiction” or a “habit” but rather it is about the relationships, the memories and the quality of life moments that we create and share through the social aspects of cigar smoking.

I personally am making a decision to take my anger and upset and use it towards figuring out how the manufacturers, retailers and event organizers can work with these regulations.  We are great thinkers.  We are innovative and forward thinking and the bottom line is that most of us would rather fight the fight than lay down our beloved cigars because our government wants more control. I gladly paid $300 plus for my CigarFest ticket and my shirt to get me more “freebies” this year.  I would be greatly saddened if I could no longer attend my annual pilgrimage to Lake Harmony, PA to experience the epitome of what cigar life is about. So why does it hurt cigar events? 

The wording in the regulations says no “free” cigars and specifies as follows:

 “FDA also understands concerns from cigar retailers about the effect that a ban on free samples could have on their ability to promote new products. FDA wishes to clarify that allowing prospective adult buyers to smell or handle a cigar is not considered the distribution of 199 a “free sample” for the purpose of 21 CFR 1140.16 as long as the product is not actually consumed in the retail facility and the prospective buyer does not leave the facility with a free tobacco product (whole or part). Affording adult consumers the opportunity to handle the product will give them the ability to feel the resistance of the cigar’s structure, and allow them to clearly see the color of the product, which is an indication of the fermentation period for the tobacco. It also will allow users to capture the aroma of the cigar and the box (if the cigar is sold in a package). Therefore, it would not be considered a free sample if a prospective buyer smells the cigar while handling it. We believe that in most circumstances, other retail facilities, including ENDS retail establishments, can similarly allow customers to touch, hold, and smell their products without violating the free sample ban. However, if the prospective buyer lights and draws or puffs on the cigar to keep the cigar lit, or otherwise uses the free cigar or leaves the retail establishment with a free cigar, this would constitute a “free sample” in violation of § 1140.16.”

 Once I got past my abhorrence of this “rule” I immediately thought about how to eliminate the problem for cigar events.   Event planners will no longer be able to use the words “free” or “freebies” and will have to change it to “promotions” or “promotional items”.  Doing so changes the intent of the receipt of the cigar.  Even if they choose to charge $0.01/per stick, this can be considered a “promotional purchase” rather than a “freebie.”  Events such as CigarFest will have to reinvent the wheel of sorts and make sure that the ticket price states that it includes the purchase of x amount of cigars which are picked up with the use of a “receipt” book for each booth.  If you buy a shirt and/or a baseball cap then you have just “purchased” a few more cigars.
 This my BOTLs and SOTLs, is just one small example of re-thinking how we do things and that was only an hour into reading the FDA Rulings.  I’m not a lawyer so if I could come up with this than I have the utmost confidence that what is supposed to be implemented in 3 years might just take 10 with all the appeals and challenges awaiting the FDA.  
One piece of sage advice I received from a BOTL in England; don’t put ideas out about loopholes for now.  If loopholes are truly there and are made public before this document becomes official and in practice, the FDA can come along and close the loopholes before this is implemented.  We need to offer support and lots of it.  Let our voices be heard but let the lawyers do their jobs!
So in the meantime I challenge each of you to do the following things:
  1. Grab a great cigar from your humidor
  2. Pair it with your favorite beverage
  3. Thoroughly read section VII of the aforementioned FDA Rules for Cigars
  4. Allow yourself some time to get angry; cuss our government; our FDA and feel what it would be like to have our cigar lifestyle diminished and destroyed
  5. Get on the computer and join “CRA” (Cigar Rights of America)
  6. Get talking with your BOTLs, SOTLs, and Retailers
  7. Write letters of support to every cigar manufacturer you can find an address for
  8. Write letters and send petitions to your politicians letting them know how we feel about the FDA Rules
  9. Take a break from all the thinking and writing
  10. Get another fine cigar and sit back and know you are part of something special
Until next time,
Stay smokey and Be Blessed!  I know I am!
Diana – Queen of Cigars

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