Entries Tagged as cigar laws
Last week, I mentioned the Cigar Rights of America had introduced a bill in the House to keep the FDA out of our humidors. Now there is a Senate companion bill in the hopper.
Folks I cannot stress how important this legislation is. Earlier this month, a piece in Barrons went over all the FDA issues. You know how everyone is excited about the possibility of Cuban cigars coming into the U.S.? Well if the FDA gets its way they will never make it to our shores.
Mitch Zeller, the head of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, stresses that the recent proposal “will allow us to propose further regulatory action on these and yet-to-be-conceived tobacco products.”
THE FDA HAS MADE SCANT EFFORT to understand the cigar industry. It concedes that it has little idea how many small handmade-cigar manufacturers exist in the U.S. and exporting countries. The agency estimates that compliance with the new regs will cost each small manufacturer up to $759,000 initially and another half-million dollars a year. The Small Business Administration’s Advocacy Office protested that the proposed regulations fail to discuss the costs of the proposed rule on many potentially affected small entities. If the new rules are finalized, many, if not most, small cigar producers will be driven out of business.
The Obama anti-tobacco campaign is driven by zealotry, not science. The FDA is part of the Department of Health and Human Services, which is carrying out a “strategic action plan” with “the bold vision of a society free from tobacco-related death and disease.”
The proposed anti-cigar regulations are based on the principle that the feds have moral and legal authority to prohibit any behavior they decree is harmful. As this principle gains ground, the government can consider bans on caffeine, junk food, and other allegedly addictive substances. But there will never be a Federal Register notice on the perils of total subjugation to imperious bureaucrats.
This commentary nails it. One of the only hopes we have is to get Congress to approve the legislation it now has. We have tried twice before, but now there is a new Congress and one that possibly is more agreeable to our plight.
The legislation needs more co-sponsors and needs to move. You can help by contacting your Congressman and Senator. Let them know you smoke cigars and vote. I don’t care if you have done this before, you need to do it again. CRA makes it easy, just go to the website and enter your zipcode. Please do it today.
cigar laws · FDA
The Cigar Rights of America is busy right now. Legislatures across the country are back in session and there is the new session of Congress. Lots of places to look for legislation aimed at screwing cigar smokers. But as I have reported CRA is making progress in Nebraska last week the Senate voted 34 to 2 to advance the bill allowing cigar smoking in the state’s cigar lounges. While the supporters hold for fast passage, one Omaha Senator vows to filibuster the bill. Stay tuned...
In Washington there are a couple of bills getting attention. One is the reintroduction of the bill to keep the FDA out of our humidors. Rep. Bill Posey is sponsoring the legislation (which was pending last session so to keep moving forward it had to be put in again.) Already the House version has 35 co-sponsors. The text is not yet available but the title says the bill clarifies the FDA’s role over certain tobacco products to protect jobs and small businesses involved with traditional and premium cigars.
And in the President’s new 4 trillion dollar budget, once again he calls for increases in the federal tobacco tax. The plan is to double the federal tax to help fund health insurance for low income children. This is the S-CHIP program that already added about 40 cents to every cigar. The President’s budget calls for nearly doubling cigarette taxes from $1.01 to $1.95 with a similar increase on cigars. The tax, if passed, which fortunately is doubtful, would take effect in 2016.
Bottom line the CRA has a lot to do. Why not help them by joining today?
Last week I told you about the legislation moving through Nebraska to once again allow smoking at cigar bars and in tobacco shops. Well that bill has now moved forward. It came out of the state legislature’s general affairs committee by a 7-0 vote with one abstention from a legislator who wanted more legal scrutiny on the bill to be certain it would hold up in court. Under the bill only cigar and pipe smoking would be allowed, no cigarettes.
The bill differentiates cigars and pipes from cigarettes by saying that cigar lovers often pair cigars with various types of alcohol and that cigar and pipe smokers may take an hour or more to enjoy their smoking “rather than simply satisfying an addiction.”
The bill carries an emergency status so it would go into effect as soon as it passes and is signed. Look for fairly quick progress on this.
In New Orleans, Mayor Mitch Landreau signed the new bill to remove exemptions in the city’s smoking laws…that means no more smoking at casinos or bars. Conveniently, it goes into effect after Mardi Gras.
In Washington state, it has been ten years since voters approved a smoking ban which prohibits smoking even in cigar stores. (The only places you can smoke as far as I know are the Indian casinos.) That could change, but the odds are still highly against it. Legislation is moving again to try to carve out a niche for cigar bars. This is the fourth time since the ban went into effect. This time the bill passed unanimously through the House Commerce and Gaming committee. The proposal would legalize cigar bars and smoking rooms in tobacco shops up to a total of 115.
Proponents say the state would gain tax money and give users of a legal, controlled substance a place to use what they're buying. Opponents see an immense public health concern and a betrayal of the voters who passed the smoking ban in 2005.
Right there are always the spoilsports.
"It's a bad idea," said Rep. Eileen Cody, D-West Seattle. "They're basically trying to get around the Clean Indoor Air Act that was supported by a wide margin."
Cody chairs the House Health Care and Wellness community and helped thwart earlier House bills to allow cigar bars. Cody said she plans to oppose the latest attempt to make Washington the 36th state to legalize cigar bars, possibly by bringing the bill into her committee for review.
"Somebody's going to be working there, and they're going to be exposed to it," Cody said.
The last time the proposal came up it was more ambitious creating 100 cigar bars and 500 smoking rooms. This one is much more modest calling it at 40 cigar bars and 75 smoking rooms.
This week in Nebraska, the Cigar Rights of America is giving testimony in efforts to let Nebraska’s cigar bars and cigar shops keep smoking. Last year, a state Supreme Court decision ruled the legislative exemptions to allow smoking was against the constitution. As the legislature convened, new legislation with perhaps more nuance was introduced to get those exemptions back. For a while after the court’s ruling, smoking was still permitted as the state’s bureaucracy worked to issue new permits that prohibited smoking. Now that work has been done and the smoking lamp for the Cornhuskers has gone out. Glynn Loope has been in Nebraska and testified before a committee this week as it hears the new legislation. Loope says he is encouraged in that this legislation has an emergency clause that would mean it could go into effect as soon as it is passed and signed by the Governor. He is cautiously optimistic that it will get done sooner rather than later.
In addition to the Super Bowl this week, there is another kick off of sorts. It is the first tobacco show of the year. Held in Vegas it is Tobacco Plus Expo and mostly geared to small stores and convenience shops. There will be some premium cigars there, but my guess is there will be a lot of vaping stuff as well and I mean a lot. It will be interesting to see the mood of the show and see what the year may have in store.
Cloudy New Orleans
At least this first show is not in doubt. The big one is. Last week, the New Orleans City council passed a smoking ban. This is a cause of concern because New Orleans is set to host the annual cigar trade show this summer. If it were my decision, I’d move it. Why should tobacconists give New Orleans ANY money? But the IPCPR says on its Facebook page
This legislation passed unanimously with favorable amendments. As amended, the legislation will not impact the International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailer Association's (IPCPR) local members or our 83rd Annual Convention & International Trade Show. The ability to smoke in cigar bars, the convention center, and in facilities being used for private events is protected by the amendment.
The favorable amendments are a handful of exemptions that could easily be taken away. The big one is that it allows smoking at the trade show on the floor. The IPCPR is playing for a tie not a win. Glynn Loope of the Cigar Rights of America isn’t buying it. He says this smoking ban is a first step and he realizes the other side goes for incrementalism. In 2007, Louisiana passed a state wide smoking ban for restaurants and many workplaces but exemptions were made for Casinos and bars. Now, New Orleans is taking those exemptions away.
The original city legislation had it so you couldn’t smoke within 25 feet of a door, but that was lowered to 5 feet when the council figured out that would effectively ban smoking on Bourbon Street. (By the way this goes into effect AFTER Mardi Gras.)
As for enforcement, it won’t be the cops giving tickets as originally planned. They already have their hands full. With Mardi Gras coming up the locals are worried about crime. In the French Quarter, there are signs telling people to travel in large groups because of the city’s violence. The NOPD is understaffed.
The force has lost about 500 officers since Katrina struck in 2005 and it is now down to about 1,150 — far fewer than the 1,600 that Landrieu would like. As few as 250 officers were found to be on patrol duty and responding to calls for help in May 2013, a city inspector general report found last May.
"I have been to some roll calls where there is one cop, two cops," said Michael Glasser, president of the Police Association of New Orleans, a police union.
The Mayor, Mitch Landrieu, wanted the council to delay action so his office could study the issue. They didn’t want to wait.
Harrah’s tried to tell the council that they were looking at a 20 percent drop in revenues because of the casino smoking ban. The supporters say the ban will bring more business to the casinos. They always say that. In December, the Louisiana State Police, which oversees gambling, projected a $104-million dollar loss due to a smoking ban. I hope this goes like Atlantic City where similar arguments were made and ignored. When Atlantic City banned smoking in casinos, it lasted about a week once the city saw the revenue drop.
Says Glynn Loope, “every job that is lost in New Orleans lies at the feet of Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell who pushed this bill.”
cigar industry · cigar laws · cigar news · IPCPR
The International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers Association is moving to Washington. For many years, the IPCPR operated out of Columbus, Georgia which had a low overhead, but made for wicked commutes to DC to fight legislation in Congress. So about a year ago, the organization decided it was time to move up. A building was found on Capitol Hill, a short walk from the legislators and work has begun to make the building a home for the group. The IPCPR hopes to move in sometime this summer.
The reactions are pretty positive. Jim Young, president of Davidoff North America says he is thrilled that the IPCPR will now be on the front line of fighting federal legislation. The CEO of the IPCPR says that the new headquarters will enable the organization to house its staff in one locale to provide better service. (Right now the IPCPR has staff in 5 states.)
One question is will people be able to smoke in the new DC headquarters. Tobacco shops are exempt, but the IPCPR is not a tobacco shop.
The law requires the employer to generally prohibit smoking in the enclosed area of a place of employment[xii], but the employer may permit smoking in an outdoor area under his or her control, subject to the terms and conditions of the lease or contract between the owner and the tenant.
I’m sure they will work on it.
cigar laws · cigar news · IPCPR
Apparently Kentucky is eying tobacco as a way of increasing revenues for the state. A tax bill introduced into the House (HB132) makes a lot of changes to the commonwealth’s tobacco taxes. First up is a dollar a pack increase on the sale of cigarettes. Snuff and chewing tobacco are also in the crosshairs with their taxes doubling. As for cigars, e-cigarettes and pipe tobacco, the bill proposes stores do a physical inventory at the end of September then pay floor tax of 25% of their cost that basically triples the current tax. This is part of a much bigger tax bill so not sure how serious they are on this. The legislature also has introduced a statewide smoking ban proposal again. The anti’s never give up even though they were shot down in the last session. The Cigar Rights of America is heading to Frankfort to try to head off this bill.
In Nebraska, it was thought that smoking in the state’s cigar bars would end with the dawn of the New Year. Last year, that state’s supreme court ruled that the exemption for cigar bars to the state’s non-smoking law was not legal. That meant that all the cigar bars would have to ban smoking beginning this year. Well red tape seems to be our friend.
“A bunch of steps in the administrative procedures act has to be taken in order to implement this matter,” Nebraska Liquor Control Commission chairman Bob Batt said.
“Anytime you get anything affecting the status of your license, it would stand to reason that you are given the opportunity for an appeal process,” Safari Cigars and Lounge attorney Bill McGinn said. “We're assuming that's what will happen here.”
In the meantime, supporters of the cigar bars are introducing new legislation to allow them to stay open.
State Sen. Tyson Larson of O’Neill submitted a bill Friday that would restore smoking in cigar bars and tobacco shops.
Let’s hope the legislature moves quickly on this.
Meanwhile, in New Orleans let’s hope thing go slowly. The city council there is getting ready to vote on a smoking ban for the city. There is opposition but last week a committee voted 3-2 to proceed. According to reports the ordinance may have enough support to pass. That would be a major bummer for the IPCPR that is planning on holding its trade show in the Crescent City this summer.
Cantrell’s ordinance would make it illegal to smoke, with a few exceptions, in all enclosed public spaces, private clubs, correctional facilities and school buildings in the city. Smoking also would be prohibited in parks during public events sponsored by the city and outdoors within 25 feet of public property and within 5 feet of commercial buildings.
Cantrell revised her original ordinance to remove a prohibition on smoking at all public events and in the common areas of apartment buildings, retirement homes and nursing facilities.
The ordinance that will go before the council also includes a provision that would grandfather in existing cigar and hookah bars — businesses with the sole purpose of selling smoking devices and providing a place for them to be used.
It could make it a very unfriendly venue for the trade show.
cigar laws · cigar life · IPCPR
There has been a lot of talk over the past couple of weeks about the loosening of our embargo on Cuba. So let’s say you want a Montecristo #2 from Cuba, last year’s Cigar of the Year. That would set you back about $27 for one and it is a puro…all Cuban tobacco.. On the other hand you could buy three Montecristos—a Monte by Montecristo which was number 9 this year and uses tobacco from Ecuador, the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua, a Montecristo Classic that uses Connecticut and Dominican tobaccos and a Montecristo Espada that has a blend of 5 vintage aged Nicaraguan tobaccos for abut the same price. I ask which is the better value?
In the popular press, much of the talk has been about now Americans can legally buy Cuban Cigars. Most of what has been reported is wrong. As a result people are coming into cigar stores and now asking where are the Cuban cigars? They are in Cuba. The reporters, seem to forget that the $400 limit of Cuban goods, with $100 for cigars and alcohol, was the rule up until August 2004 when then President Bush cut back on travel and the imports from Cuba.
Back in the early 2000s, Cuba kept pushing the U.S. by threatening to close the U.S. Interests Section in Havana (which in essence was our embassy there) and kept saying the U.S. was going to invade the island even though there were no plans for doing so among other things. The Cuban government wants the embargo, although they call it a blockade because it explains why the people have nothing. It is all our fault you see.
If you can remember back to the Clinton administration, there was a lot of talk about opening up relations with Cuba—until 1996 when the Castros shot down two or three civilian Cessnas that were operated by a Cuban-exile group that attempted to spot people fleeing Cuba on rafts. There went the talk of easing relations.
With the most recent announcement of setting up diplomatic relations with Cuba, there most likely will be more licensed trips available to Cuba. That is the key, for an American to legally buy Cuban cigars you must be on a licensed trip to the island. You must fly directly from the US to Cuba. Usually from Miami. But really so what?
Yes Cuban cigars are forbidden fruit, but if you look at Cigar Aficionado’s top cigars of the year for the past, say 5 years, the Montecristo #2 from Cuba was Cigar of the Year last year (2013) and the Cuban Cohiba Behike was number 1 in 2010 (cost about $45 in 2010). Other than that, it was the cigars made for our market that were the big winners. This year the best cigar, according to CA, was the Oliva Serie V Melanio. In 2013, the runner up was Aging Room Quattro F-55 only one point behind the Cuban (and about a third the price). And tied at number 3 was the Davidoff Nicaragua.
The point is that most of our cigars are being made by former Cubans who got out of the country and now are plying their trade in the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Honduras. Unlike Cuba, which is known for its tobacco, these exiles can use tobaccos from all over the world, except for Cuba. The thing is that honestly Cuban tobacco is not what it once was. The country has been over-farming the land for tobacco because it needs all it can get. The soil, though rich, is becoming depleted. Are there still good Cuban cigars? Sure. But there are many more non Cubans that are better cigars and better values.
Look at it this way, in Europe more and more tobacconists are looking to the exiles for their cigars as tastes change.
cigar industry · cigar laws · Cuban cigars
We all know how cigars can bring people together. You sit smoking and someone comes up and asks “what are you smoking?” and thus beginning a conversation. The cigar crosses pretty much all societal bounds… everyone is equal and every cigar is a conversation.
This past weekend, the House and Senate voted on a continuing resolution to keep the government operating into the New Year. That much is known and while not everyone likes the bill, what has not received much attention is the fact that the bill was written in a smoke-filled room and that smoke came from premium cigars! That information came out in an open meeting of the House Rules Committee. Said Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK):
John Kline [a Minnesota Republican who chairs the House Education and Workforce Committee] is my best friend in the United States Congress, and George Miller [a California Democrat who’s the ranking member of that committee] is certainly one of my best friends on the other side of the aisle. I’ve had the opportunity to talk about this particular pension problem over a cigar at the end of the day on more than one occasion.
It seems that members of Congress who philosophically disagree seem to be able to agree on cigars. Said Miller:
“A lot of people over the past couple years have asked about Mr. Kline’s and my relationship, and since you alluded to it, I guess we can let the secret out of the box that a number of years ago, when I was new to the minority and Mr. Kline was new to the majority, we didn’t know one another. You invited us to come and have a cigar with you one evening. But the fact of the matter is it allowed us to have a whole range of discussions over these several years, without animosity, agree or disagree, that's all possible and that has worked.”
Amazing what a cigar can do. By the way both Reps. Kline and Cole are co-sponsors of the Premium Cigar bill that would keep the FDA out of our humidors. Rep. Miller has yet to sign up…maybe in the next session when the legislation is introduced once more.
cigar laws · cigar life · cigar news