A Florida Congresswoman says she expects the House this fall to pass a bill that will exempt traditional large and premium cigars from onerous federal restrictions. This would include the removal of a ridiculous ban on cigar donations to our troops.
But it remains unclear what the U.S. Senate would do with its version of the bill (S. 441) or if President Obama would sign it into law before expiration of the current two-year term for the 2015-2016 Congress.
The Traditional Cigar Manufacturing and Small Business Jobs Preservation Act of 2015 would amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to exempt traditional large and premium cigars from regulation by the Food and Drug Administration and from user fees assessed on tobacco products by the FDA, according to a description of the bill at Congress.gov.
Daniel Ruth, a columnist for the Tampa Bay Times, wrote on Sept. 9 that Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Fla. (Tampa), one of the bill's original 34 co-sponsors, said she expects the House bill to "quickly be approved this fall."
"There's no question the American Cancer Society does wonderful work. But getting all huffy over American troops in a combat zone engaging in the modest pleasure of a cigar would seem to be a busybody too far."
- Daniel Ruth in his Sept. 9 column in the Tampa Bay Times
ORIGINAL STORY ON TAMPA BAY CIGARS:
FDA Nannies Ban Cigar Donations to Troops
Our troops risk their lives for America and one of the favorite gifts they receive from home is a good cigar. Now, Washington's nannies at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration - a federal agency that apparently doesn't give a damn about troop morale - has taken away even that one small pleasure.
Thompson Cigar Co. - an international retailer based in Tampa - has donated cigars in Tampa to American soldiers since the first World War. The retailer has now ended their thoughtful AND patriotic gifts because of new FDA regulations that took effect Aug. 8 on cigars, e-cigarettes and other products.
According to an Aug. 29 story in the Tampa Bay Times, Thompson and others are interpreting the new FDA regulations as a ban on the charitable donation of tobacco products. Cigar makers and retailers that have donated thousands of cigars each year risk fines or other sanctions if they keep giving.
"The troops are out there putting their lives on the line to protect our freedoms, rights and privileges, and the federal government is taking away those same freedoms and rights. This is how we can give back to our country and it's amazing the FDA unilaterally seeks to take that away. It just hurts me we're not going to be able to do this anymore."
- Rocky Patel, owner of Rocky Patel Premium Cigar Co. in Bonita Springs, Fla.
Retired Army Sgt. Charles Claybaker of St. Petersburg told the Times about how simple donations such as cigars and playing cards from home helped with troop morale, including back in 2009 when he was in a 3rd Ranger Battalion platoon at a base in a remote, mountainous part of Afghanistan.
"After a long mission and you get into a firefight or something like that, it's nice to have a cigar and play cards with your buddies," Claybaker told the Times. "For a few minutes, it just makes you feel like you're back home, like you're American again, especially in a place like Afghanistan that culturally is so extraordinarily different."
The Times also noted that it's not just the troops getting free cigars. Newman and other companies donate thousands more to charities each year for silent auctions, golf tournaments and other fundraisers.
"We're good citizens, and now the FDA says, 'No, no, no. No more charity.' There's never been a better example of a rogue government regulatory agency gone wild. If it weren't so serious, it would be comical."
- Eric Newman, president, J.C. Newman Cigar Co. in Tampa.
Cigar makers and retailers have been up in arms for months about the new regulations, according to the Times. The new rules impose stringent new fees and regulations on tobacco products and electronic cigarettes.
Premium cigar makers say a new FDA review process for bringing new products to market will be lengthy and costly and could kill their industry, the Times reported. They argue that premium cigars should not be lumped in with traditional cigarettes and e-cigarettes, also known as vape pens.
It's unclear how much of an impact the new FDA regulations will have on national organizations that donate cigars to American troops, including Operation: Cigars for Warriors.
Of course, there are many important organizations that send care packages to our troops that are always looking for help with things other than cigars, including Operation Gratitude.
But there's no doubt that the FDA ban will hurt Support the Troops, a Wesley Chapel, Fla.-based nonprofit that sends care packages that include Cigars to bases in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere, Mark Van Trees, who operates the nonprofit, told the Times.
Cigars are the second-most-requested item in those packages, behind coffee and ahead of toothpaste and tube socks, Van Trees said.
According to the Times report:
- Thompson has been the biggest supporter of Support the Troops, donating 5,000 to 7,000 cigars a month.
- Patel has donated $60,000 to $80,000 worth of cigars annually.
- J.C. Newman gives about $20,000 to $30,000 worth of cigars each year.
"It means the world to these guys who love to sit by the fire and smoke some sticks. This is going to put a huge hole in what we do for them."
- Van Trees told the Times.
READ the entire story - New FDA tobacco rules appear to ban cigar donations to troops - at the Tampa Bay Times.