As we head into the teeth of the federal and state legislative season, I thought it was a good time to remind Smokeshop readers about the annual “spring offensive” against our recreational choices and some of the work being done on behalf of cigar businesses and customers around the nation.
As the national trade organization of cigar manufacturers, importers and distributors as well as major suppliers to the industry, the Cigar Association of America has been involved with legislative and regulatory issues in the U.S. for more than three-quarters of a century. But this year’s action in Washington and state capitals has put a special focus of regulation and taxes on our members and customers this year according to our network of legislative advocates across the country.
Let’s start in Washington, DC. We’re in a showdown with legislation calling for a 100 percent tax on many cigars (including premium cigars) and a staggering 870 percent tax increase on pipe tobacco. This isn’t regulation. It’s strangulation, effectively shutting down major segments of the industry and throwing hundreds of distributors, wholesalers, retailers, and related concerns out of business, and potentially leaving thousands of employees jobless.
Anti-cigar forces in the nation’s capital are also working to force regulation of cigars by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in the same manner as cigarettes, requiring disclosure of ingredients, onerous testing and reporting, and restrictions on marketing and advertising – even affecting the time-honored artistry of cigar box decoration. The imposition of FDA regulation would severely hamper cigar makers’ development of new blends and could ban events where cigar makers offer samples.
Moving out into the states, together with our partners in the community of cigars, especially retailers at the local level, CAA’s dedicated network of advocates and legislative specialists will be active in dozens of capitals and municipalities again this year.
After battling in a record 25 states seeking new taxes on cigars in 2011, we saw the number of revenue fights decline to 18 last year, with a comparable number expected in 2013. More than a dozen states are attempting new taxes and regulation on little cigars. Last year, we went 9-0 in regulatory fights over flavorings in state legislatures against anti-cigar activists and the battle is gearing up again for 2013. And up to 10 states will consider restrictions or bans on cigar smoking, retailing and hospitality.
Thanks to our members and the support of the cigar community, CAA will be on point again this legislative season in state capitals and year-round in critical local battles. Join us by staying informed and staying active. To keep current on political and legislative activity in Washington and state capitals across the nation, check out our website at www.cigarassociation.org.
President, Cigar Association of America