"This administration is talking out of both sides of its mouth. While building a better relationship with Cuba, it's effectively banned its most famous product."
- Bryan Haynes, a partner with the Atlanta-based law firm Troutman Sanders, which represents tobacco companies.
VIDEO: J. Glynn Loope, executive director of the advocacy group Cigar Rights of America, speaks out against new FDA rules.
Will Feds Grant Cigar Exception?
New federal regulations may keep Cuban cigars out of your favorite local tobacco shop for at least two years, though the premium hand-rolled cigar industry — a category that would include most Cubans — is lobbying to be exempt from the regulations.
You may not be able to buy Cuban cigars in the United States until at least 2019, and only if at least two things happen.
- First, the Cuban embargo as it impacts cigars needs to be formally lifted, perhaps in the next year or so.
- Second, once the embargo ends, Cuban cigar producers must immediately begin the lengthy and expensive compliance process to have a chance at selling in the U.S. by 2019.
The new regulatory process is similar to how the U.S. Food and Drug Administration governs the cigarette industry. But cigar makers contend that they should be granted an exception because their products use pure tobacco and no dangerous chemicals.
The new FDA regulations govern cigars, electronic cigarettes and personal vaporizers introduced into the U.S. market after February 15, 2007.
These producers must submit detailed accounts of their ingredients and the process used to manufacture their products, according to new FDA rules that also impact American companies.
According to a recent story in the Tampa Bay Times, the FDA rules also will affect Ybor City's J.C. Newman Cigar Co., which rolls premium cigars using tobacco from Cameroon.
"We are disappointed in the FDA's decision to treat premium cigars as cigarettes. This will be a real challenge for us long term, but we are ready to fight."
- Eric Newman, the company's president.
Different types of cigars sold by the same brand are considered separate products and each must comply with the regulations. The Times story said to do so will cost up to $330,000 per product, the FDA estimates, while the tobacco industry argues that number is closer to $1 million.
Either way, said J. Glynn Loope, executive director of the advocacy group Cigar Rights of America, it's doubtful that boutique operations can afford the bill, he told the Times.
Larger companies, he said, may cut back on the number of new cigars they produce and pull some cigars already on the market to avoid the regulatory costs. Newman said that's a possibility for his company.