Cigar Rights of America announced this week a dramatic new measure in the effort to combat federal regulation of cigars. CRA has not just been working the halls of Congress since legislation was filed to protect cigars from potentially threatening regulations by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. The organization has also been engaging in a brand of shuttle diplomacy among the primary cigar producing nations of Latin America.
Last week, following several months of meetings and groundwork, a joint letter was issued by the Ambassadors to the United States for Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.
Facilitated by Cigar Rights of America, the staff of each embassy has been kept apprised of the legislation filed in 2011 to protect cigars from FDA oversight, which finished 2012 with 221 co-sponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives, and fourteen in the U.S. Senate. The bills are currently being resubmitted for the 113th Congress.
While previous joint letters have been sent to the members of the House and Senate committees for foreign affairs by the Honduran and Dominican Republic ambassadors, this is the first joint statement of all three, and sent directly to the Obama Administration.
Signed by Ambassador to the U.S. for Honduras Jorge Ramon Hernandez-Alcerro, Ambassador to the U.S. for the Dominican Republic Anibal de Castro, and Ambassador to the U.S. for Nicaragua Francisco Campbell, the letter highlights the economic significance of the premium cigar industry to each of their respective nations, and why the government of the United States should not promote regulations that can pose threats to the industry.
The letter states, â€œIf history is any precedent, some of the regulations that could be imposed by the agency would prove disastrous to the centuries old cigar industry that provides over 350,000 jobs among our three nations, and represents millions of dollars in export revenue. No regulatory measure should threaten such jobs, and hence raise the specter of political and economic consequences within our region.â€
The letter further notes that premium cigars were neither a target nor the intent of Congress, when it passed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. The ambassadors point out that the legislation pending in Congress, as well as letters sent from Members of the House and Senate to the FDA, â€œserves to echo our deep concern about the direction and intentions of FDA.â€
On December 21, 2012, moments after Congress left Washington for the holiday, the Administration released its â€œUnified Regulatory Agendaâ€ for 2013. Within that release was a page from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that again noted the intent to deem other products [cigars, among them] subject to regulation. The ambassadors stated on this point, â€œWe are deeply concerned with the FDAâ€™s admission in their December 21 publication that these regulations are â€˜likely to have international trade and investment effects.â€™
To convey their message of concern to the Obama Administration, the joint letter from the ambassadors was sent to high ranking officials at the State Department, White House, and the FDA, among them, the joint statement was sent directly to the Commissioner of the FDA Dr. Margaret Hamburg, and the director of the FDA Center for Tobacco Products, Dr. Lawrence Deyton.
The joint statement also conveys the role of cigars with American jobs. The ambassadors state, â€œFDA regulation of premium cigars would harm many of the small business owners in the United States that derive their livelihoods from these prestigious products.â€
CRA Executive Director Glynn Loope stated, â€œThis is an important milestone in our collective effort to ward off the heavy hand of the federal bureaucracy from regulating cigars. On behalf of CRA and each of our consumer, retail tobacconist and manufacturer members, we commend this act by the Ambassadors to the United States for Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. Their message to the State Department, FDA and channels at The White House proclaim, as only they can, that this industry is built upon generations of art, history and skill, and no act of this government, should threaten such a foundation to each of their respective national economies.â€
Loope continued, â€œWe sincerely thank the embassies and their staff for the joint letter and statement on this issue. Each of their embassies in Washington, DC have welcomed us, hosted meetings, coordinated discussions, remained attuned to this issue both at the legislative and administrative levels, and worked collaboratively for the good of their regional economy, as well as for the passion for cigars shared by millions of American consumers, thousands of small businesses, and the manufacturers of these amazing cigars.â€