HR 792 and You
As an avid fan of cigars and the culture that surrounds them, and as someone who worked in Washington D.C. in a former life, I am deeply troubled by legislation and laws that have been put in place by the current administration.
In June of 2009, President Obama signed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act into law. Sounds great, right? For premium cigar smokers, it is most assuredly not. The law gives the FDA jurisdiction to regulate cigars and group them with cigarettes and other more harmful tobacco products. The problem is that science and common sense don’t support such a grouping. Moreover, this new law will cripple the cigar industry beyond repair.
Grouping cigars with cigarettes is like grouping tanks with automobiles. Sure, they are both modes of transportation and they can potentially harm people, but tanks and cigarettes are designed to kill while cigars, like automobiles, are far less harmful when used responsibly. Now, if one smokes several cigars daily or drives drunk behind the wheel, he or she abuses what was meant to be a good thing.
Additionally, cigar makers are vastly different from cigarette companies. For one, cigars are far less likely to kill when smoked in moderation (more on that in a bit). Cigar companies also market to adults, and there is no Joe Camel trying to convince kids to smoke cigars. A 12 year old can’t go to a cigar vending machine and pick out his favorite Nicaraguan blend. The comparisons between cigars and cigarettes simply don’t work.
The health risks are incomparable as well. Cigar smokers’ health risks are statistically insignificant when compared to non-smokers (for those of us who enjoy a cigar a few times a week), whereas a cigarette smoker’s risk of dying from related diseases is exponentially higher than a non-smoker, and the habit lends itself to smoking multiple times per day. Claiming otherwise is nothing more than a power grab – one more way to extend the tentacles of the federal government into the lives of everyday people.
This brings us to H.R. 792 (Formerly called H.R. 1639 and Traditional Cigar Manufacturing and Small Business Jobs Preservation Act of 2011). Two Representatives out of Florida cosponsor the bipartisan bill: Kathy Castor-D and Bill Posey-R. Currently, H.R. 792 has 13 bipartisan cosponsors; H.R. 1639 had 220 cosponsors by last count. This bill would remove premium cigars from the reach of the FDA, and protect the industry that we all love. If the FDA has its way:
1. It’s estimated that cigars would double in price because of taxes and fees imposed.
2. There would be mandatory testing of the blends and limits put on nicotine levels, which would kill the flavor brought about by these artistic blends.
3. They would ban walk in humidors.
4. Jobs would be cut. According to Bill Spann, CEO of the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association, “There are 85,000 American jobs in the premium-cigar industry.” He added that most stores are family-owned and employ four to six people. “This would devastate those 85,000 jobs. In today’s economy, to take our tax dollars and our representative form of government and do anything that will jeopardize jobs in any way is an anathema to me.”
And this would be just the beginning. In the last 20 years, cigarette smokers have idly sat by while their “rights” have been demolished. It started with no smoking in restaurants. Then bars. Now in major cities one has to walk down the street from the entrance of the bar in order to smoke. I am not arguing this point as a proponent of cigarette smoking; I’m merely pointing out that as a group, cigarette smokers never fought back and, in a short 20 years, the landscape has changed dramatically.
Conversely, the NRA hasn’t budged an inch on gun rights. (I am not condoning or condemning the NRA, I’m simply making a point.) Anytime legislation is proposed to ban or limit guns and ammo, it’s met by a united group of gun owners who fight even the smallest change. The NRA sees the big picture and understands that when the government gets an inch, the fight is over and they will eventually take it all.
Cigar Rights of America, enter stage left. The CRA is our equivalent of a gun toter’s NRA. The CRA is a group that is determined to protect our rights as cigar smokers from government overreach. They are on the front lines battling for H.R. 792 and it is critical that we support them.
If we sit by and give up this ground, it will be impossible to get it back. The cigars, cigar culture, and everything that’s included will be forever changed. We will be left to reminisce about the “good ol’ days” when one could walk into a humidor and buy an unadulterated cigar to smoke with his or her friends at the local shop.
Jeremy Ellis is Senior Editor at Stogies on the Rocks.