Bill Clinton has been out of office now for almost a generation (14 years) but still in the limelight of course. He is known as someone who smokes cigars (as seen in this photo from Reuters in 1999) and where he put them caused news during his presidency. This past week, he made cigar news again. Kaizad Hansotia—the C-E-O of Gurkha – says the former President is a big fan of “His Majesty’s Reserve” cigars which fetch—are you ready? --$1,000 per stick.
"We hunt for the most exotic tobaccos around the world," Hansotia said, rationalizing the nearly $1,000 price tag. The company produces about 20,000 boxes per year, and has a three-year waiting list. Clients include business leaders, royal families and dignitaries. A-List celebrities like Matthew McConaughey -- and apparently one former president -- also smoke the company's premium cigars.
Now according to the news reports, Clinton may not actually smoke the HMR regularly instead Hansotia says Bill likes the Beauties, which only cost $600 each. That must mean that Bill is not buying them from JR…. Of course Gurkha makes a lot of different cigars and many are available in 5 packs. But the HMR is not available in the 5-pack ….yet. heh.
Bill Clinton · famous smokers · Gurkha · luxury cigars
One of the newer things at the Davidoff booth was the recently released Camacho Ecuador. The cigar with the blue band and box actually came out just before the show, but it was prominently featured at the booth. The new Camacho uses a Habano seed grown in Ecuador for its wrapper with a Brazilian Mata Fina binder and high priming Honduran tobaccos along with Pelo de Oro ligero from the Dominican Republic for fillers. It comes in 5 sizes from a 5” x 50 Robusto to a 6” 60 Gordo and prices start just under $7.
Davidoff also continued the Camacho Liberty Series for 2014, which also uses the Habano Ecuadoran wrapper but it is from 2005. This cigar contains a 2006 Corojo binder and fillers from both the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua. It is only one size, 11/18 and comes in 20 count boxes with a total production of only 2,000 boxes. They retail for $17 each.
Another addition to the Camacho line is the Double Shock. The logo for this cigar is the rare double-tailed scorpion. Davidoff says this barber pole type of cigar was made in the Danli factory with tobaccos from 5 different countries. The wrappers are, again, the Ecuadoran Habano but paired with a dark San Andres leaf creating the barber pole effect. The binder is Criollo and the fillers are from the Dominican Republic, Honduras and Pennsylvania. The double shock is limited to 1,000 boxes of each size. They come in three sizes, Toro, Figurado and Gordo and the retail is from $11.50 to $13. They should hit store shelves in October.
Finally, part of the Camacho “Board of the Bold” is Hollywood writer, producer and director Rob Weiss. He is best known for the HBO series Entourage. Weiss now has partnered with Camacho and Davidoff to form the B.G. Meyer Company and has released a couple of cigars. The first line is the Standard Issue, which uses Nicaraguan tobaccos made at AgroIndustrias Laepe S.A. in Danli—the old Camacho and now Davidoff factory. It comes in five sizes, again from the 5” x 50 Robusto to a 6” x 60 Gordo. Prices are from $8-10. The second cigar is called Slackers which is a smaller stick being sold in 4 packs. Whereas the Standard Issue is medium to full, Slackers is more on the mild side with an Ecuadoran Connecticut wrapper, Dominican binder and fillers. Cost will be about $4 each.
Camacho · Davidoff · IPCPR · new cigars
One thing is pretty clear about the FDA…no matter what they rule, there will be court cases. For one thing, Altria—the cigarette maker Philip Morris—is concerned that the FDA control may force them to change the name of one of the best selling cigar brands. Altria owns John Middleton Co., which makes the Black and Mild brand. Middleton dates back to 1856 and it has almost a third of the U.S. cigar market.
Under the Food and Drug Administration proposal, cigar makers would have to remove descriptions like "light," ''mild," ''medium" or "low" from their products, raising a unique question about the fate of Black & Mild.
The descriptions were banned for cigarettes under a 2009 law because many smokers wrongly thought they meant the products were less harmful than "full-flavor" cigarettes. Cigarette makers have since replaced those words with colors such as gold, silver, blue and orange on such brands, which usually feature different filters and milder-flavored blends.
The company contends that forcing it to change the name would be unconstitutional.
"Neither FDA's regulatory authority or the First Amendment allows the FDA to ban words such as mild for cigar and pipe tobacco regardless of the context," said Altria spokesman David Sutton. "Here, when the word is part of a longstanding and well-established trademark like Black & Mild, such a ban would violate basic constitutional guarantees."
But, of course, constitutionality matters to the government. See Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder for confirmation.
cigar industry · cigar laws · FDA
The FDA is going through the comments now and last week in talking with Glynn Loope about the comments submitted, he told me that on the last day the Cigar Rights of America group delivered about 40 pounds of letters. Yup, the old fashioned pre-Internet kind on paper, not electronic. That is a lot of letters from cigar smokers and is a good thing. Loope says the CRA is drafting another letter for consumers to send to Congress. Yes there still is a way to stop this, via Congressional action. (This is an election year after all.)
In the meantime, Florida’s Attorney General gets a pat on the back. Pam Bondi wrote into the FDA to say she thinks they are overdoing it. Unfortunately she was alone.
Bondi’s letter was separate from a letter signed the same day by 29 other attorneys general that implored the FDA to make the proposed regulations even stronger, particularly in regard to electronic cigarettes
Bondi said the FDA should consider the economic impact of what it is doing. (Remember it already has put people in San Antonio out of work when Finck’s cigar factory closed and I doubt there is much call for cigar makers in Texas anymore.) Bondi is concerned that J.C. Newman in Tampa would have to cease its manufacturing in that city.
“This 119-year-old premium cigar company with 130 employees is truly unique in this industry and should not be regulated in the same manner as the nation’s largest cigarette companies,” Bondi wrote on Friday, the deadline for submissions on the federal plan.
Florida’s Senators also have been involved.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., have requested an exemption to the new rules for companies that don’t mass-produce cigars, such as J. C. Newman. The FDA is already considering an exemption for premium cigars that are handmade. J.C. Newman uses vintage machines.
We’ll see how this plays out.
cigar industry · cigar laws · FDA
Speaking of Jochy Blanco, he has been a busy man. Not only does he make all of Boutique Blends cigars, but he also is making his cousin Jose Blanco’s Señoral line of cigars. (Yes they are both named Jose Blanco, which is why Jochy uses his nickname.) But somehow, Jochy found time to make another new cigar, Black Abyss. This is what you expect from his factory Tabacalera La Palma, bold flavors with great construction. He uses a San Andres maduro wrapper over Corojo binder and criollo fillers. They are very reasonably priced with the MSRP ranging from $4.50 to $5.50. The only bad news is that they sell out fast.
boutique cigars · new cigars
Boutique Blends at the show had several interesting cigars. If you don’t know the company you probably do know the cigars. They are the ones behind Aging Room. The first cigar out of that series was the M-356, which debuted in Cigar Aficionado’s top 25 list for 2011. Heck of a way to start. For 2013, the Quattro F55 was named the number 2 cigar of the year by CA (only a Cuban beat it.) Both of these cigars, like all of the Aging Room products are limited. The company uses special aged tobaccos and once they run out that is it. The M-356 is about out of production (the tobacco is just about gone) so get them while you can. For this year, the company had another limited production cigar called Aging Room, Bin No. 1. This is what Rafael Nodal calls a strong cigar with flavor. And strong it is, I would recommend it after a steak dinner. He and master blender Jochy Blanco are using some really old tobacco that is very strong, but the age on the tobacco makes the cigar very smokable.
Another new entry from Boutique is La Boheme. Unlike the Aging Room lines this one will be in regular production and not limited. It uses an Ecuadoran Habano wrapper over Dominican Habano filler and binder. It comes in 4 sizes: Mini at 3.5” x 46 (which happens to be co-owner Hank Bischoff’s favorite size), Pittore at 5.125” x 52, Poeta 5.75” x 54 and Musico at 6.25” x 60. It is medium to full bodied with a great taste. The SWAG line is another regular production line. It comes in the SWAG-S , the SWAG Puro Dominicano and now the new addition to the line-up is the SWAG Black. Unlike the other SWAG cigars, the black is more full bodied, using a Habano seed wrapper over Dominican fillers and binder. It will be coming in four sizes from the 4.5” x 48 up to 6 x 60. List prices are $6.95 to $8.98. The last limited production item is the M020 ffortissimo. It is the sequel to last year’s M-21 it uses San Andres wrapper over Habano Dominican filler and binder and it too is full bodies. It comes in one figurado size 5.75” x 47, boxes of 10 and retails at about $14.
boutique cigars · new cigars
Well the comment period is now closed for the FDA’s proposed rule to take over cigars. We don’t know how many were in favor and how many were on our side yet. But the final count was 75,735, which is about 15,000 more than we had at the start of last week. Since the FDA has to look at every comment, figure it will take them about 6 months to go through all of them. Realistically, the FDA is going to do what it wants to do no matter what. So now we sit and wait. I thank those of you who did put in your comments, and as for those who didn’t, well when cigars are gone you only have yourselves to blame.
The other side is not resting…they are continuing their push for regulation of premium cigars. According to an inaccurate report by Bloomberg:
“We know that premium cigars have health risks, they cause cancers they have cardiovascular implications and so on,” Gregg Haifley, associate director of federal relations with the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network, said in an interview. “Why should a product that has known disease health consequences be exempt from a factual scientific warning label?”
There are 3,639 types of cigars that would be affected by the proposal, 3,276 of which are made in other countries, according to an economic analysis by the FDA.
The groups want the premium cigar makers to have only one year to file an application to sell their products instead of the 2 years the FDA proposes. For all 3,639 cigars and that doesn’t include what came out this year at the trade show. And I am sure the FDA will get right on that approving them...
Oh the inaccurate part? In the story’s third paragraph it talks about Imperial Tobacco as the owner of Davidoff. Guess the reporter and the anti’s don’t know Davidoff is a separate company. Nice fact checking.
By the way, in Hawaii there is a preview of things to come. Starting July first, the state got rid of self-service for cigars, unless the shop bars anyone under 18 from going in. It is not that much of a problem because there are very few walk-in humidors in the state and the under 18 ban is a way out. But look for the FDA to implement a very similar rule everywhere once they gain control.
So What Now?
There is still something you can do about this…urge your Congressmen and Senators to support HR 792 and SB 772, which would exempt premium cigars from the FDA’s clutches. As of now, there are 162 sponsors and co-sponsors for the House bill and 16 for the Senate version. We need to do better. Write and call your Congressional delegation to be certain they get involved. Even if these bills do not pass this session, the more sponsors we get will get the FDA’s attention. After all, the FDA gets its money from Congress. You can go to the Cigar Rights website to get information on the bills and how to contact your representatives.
cigar laws · FDA
The FDA says it uses science for its rulings. But does it? Nope not a whit. Take the e-cig deeming. You would think there is research on e-cigs to back up the agency’s proposal. Not so much. You see the FDA is spending $270 million of your money on research into e-cigs. The research is underway and the regulations could happen within the year.
“Final results may not be available before 2018, researchers leading the FDA-funded projects told Reuters. That timetable, which has not been reported before, underscores how the slow pace of science is contributing to a regulatory vacuum, allowing e-cigarette makers to sell their products virtually unchallenged.”
Note the editorial comment above…emphasis mine. So then why are they doing it? Big Pharma. The International Tobacco Growers Association has outlined the reasons for this and the WHO tobacco control agenda. IGTA chief executive Antonio Abrunhosa:
"This is big war. Pharmaceutical companies always dream of replacing each cigarette with nicotine patch. They have been campaigning very heavily against tobacco for many years. They fund heavily for the campaign against tobacco," Abrunhosa alleged while talking to reporters.
"We are poor farmers, we cannot fight with big companies. They have millions of dollars. But we have millions of people on our side," he added.
While this fight goes on, the retailer trade group is still wrestling with definitions of premium cigars…how much should it weigh, what size, what price and who should be exempt. To me this is the equivalent of re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Just leave cigars alone. All cigars.
An example is the Quesada Petit cigar introduced last month at the trade show. It is little and weighs almost nothing, yet it is hand made out of all tobacco and it is even long filler! The price about a buck. Hand made and long fill make that a premium cigar to me, but others disagree.
Then what about the premium cigars that J.C.Newman makes in Tampa? They are machine made and would not get an exemption. That could kill the last cigar factory in “Cigar City” because the FDA would have to review all “new” products.
“The gatekeeping role includes requiring cigar manufacturers to spend thousands of hours, according to an FDA analysis, to test new products before submitting an application to sell a single new brand or size of cigar. New packaging on an existing cigar also would require FDA approval, and the tightened manufacturing practices could prohibit J.C. Newman’s vintage equipment.”
Remember we have already lost one factory--Finck Cigar Manufacturing in San Antonio. There are those in the cigar industry who think they can work with the FDA. Nothing could be further from the truth. If cigars are deemed to be under FDA control, in addition to most likely banning walk-in humidors (no self service) the agency would have to approve all new products. How does that work out? Not great. Just last week, the Wall Street Journal editorialized how skin cancer is one of the most easily preventable diseases in the U.S. with melanoma killing one person per hour.
“One reason is that the Food and Drug Administration refuses to approve superior prevention technologies. The FDA last blessed a new sunscreen in 1999. Eight new chemical ingredient applications are awaiting regulatory decisions—three of them since 2002, and another three since 2005.”
As for the Tobacco office itself, Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina cited a GAO report on the FDA’s approval process in tobacco which relies on Substantial Equivalence (SE).
“According to Burr, the GAO report concluded that since 2009, the FDA has collected more than $1.1 billion in tobacco user fees. However, as of now, the agency has only made final decisions on 17 tobacco products out of the 3,788 total SE submissions in the three years since the FDA received the first SE submission in June 2010. “
Bottom line, this is serious and more needs to be done quickly. Get involved and make sure your friends are involved as well. Contact your Senators and Representatives to back the bills, which would prohibit the FDA from regulating cigars. And then get every cigar smoker to rise up and literally flood the FDA with comments this week. After Friday, it will be too late.
cigar industry · cigar laws · FDA
Stop posting pictures of what cigar you smoked or are smoking. Because if you don’t get busy your cigar days will soon be gone. We are in the last hours to submit comments to the FDA on its deeming proposal that would bring cigars under its control. To date, the FDA website shows only 66,000+ comments on the proposed rule. Now considering not only cigars would come under the FDA, but so too would e-cigs, which don’t even contain tobacco nor emit smoke, and there are by estimates millions of e-cig users, that comment number is pathetic. To give you an idea, when the Federal Communications Commission called for comments on the so-called net neutrality issue, there were more than a million comments. Of those 66,000 you can bet many are from the anti side, although the Sunlight Foundation says as of July 18 slightly more than half come from our side. But then again another 11,000 comments have come in since that report. We still have to do better.
Late last week the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids put out a release saying 17.4 million Americans smoke cigars every day. (I bet most don’t even know about the FDA actions. I met a couple of retailers at the trade show who did not know!) What does that mean to the Campaign? Regulation of course.
“This study shows that cigar smoking is a serious public health problem that must be addressed through strategies such as Food and Drug Administration regulation of all cigars and taxation of cigar products at the same rate as cigarettes.”
The other side wants absolutely no exceptions. Remember the FDA didn’t want one either, it was the Office of Management and Budget that suggested the option for premium cigars and removed the ban on anything other than face-to-face sales, which would have shut down Internet cigar sales. That did not make the anti’s happy.
"The part of the proposal we are deeply troubled by is the sweetheart deal for the cigar industry," Erika Sward, assistant vice president for national advocacy at the American Lung Association.
The campaign also is working hard lobbying medical groups to get on board.
"We oppose any amendment that would interfere with the current rulemaking process, prevent a science-based decision-making process, and place a broad category of cigars beyond the reach of FDA," said the May 27 letter, which was crafted by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and signed by more than 30 medical organizations. "An amendment to exclude certain types of cigars would prevent FDA from implementing even basic common-sense rules such as requiring manufacturers to report what ingredients are contained in their products."
The last day for comments on the FDA rules is this Friday August 8th. If you haven’t done so, go directly to the FDA site, or reach it through the Cigar Rights site. I would suggest the FDA stay away from ALL cigars. Be sure to tell all your friends and make certain your tobacconist knows. And make sure they submit their comments.
cigar industry · cigar laws · FDA
Rocky Patel is launching several new lines. The Super Ligero is an amped up stick which uses a Habano St. Augustin wrapper with a special hybrid called super ligero and double ligero. Coming in four sizes from a lancero up to a sixty ring gauge the price is $7-$8. The company also is launching a Cameroon version of the Decade. Same blend as the regular Decade just with a Cameroon wrapper. It will come in three sizes and will run $9.75 to $11.25. He also has Catch 22, a line without his name on the brand. This is a value play with pricing starting at $4.50 for a Rothschild up to $5.50 for a 6” x 60.
Probably the most fun and politically incorrect launch is Prohibition. The cigars are packed in mason jars, 16 to a jar and come in a crate. If you have seen Boardwalk Empire, think about how the booze was smuggled into the U-S during Prohibition. Says Rocky, “ With the current atmosphere against tobacco we are probably heading towards a time of Prohibition again, so I wanted to make a statement and I hope get people fired up about working to stop this proposed control by the FDA.”
The cigars in the jars have either a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper or Mexican San Andres. The binder is Brazilian Matafina and the filler is all Nicaraguan. They are one size 6.5” x 52 and will retail for $8.
Rocky also is making a bigger Edge…the 7” x 70 Howitzer in both Corojo and Maduro. It will retail for $10.
IPCPR · new cigars