If you think American cigar smokers have it bad–think again. House Bill 5727, a bill currently pending in the Senate of the Philippines, will impose a 12,000% increase in the tax imposed per cigar, from P1.25 per cigar to P150 per cigar. You heard it right. That’s like paying $150 for a house blend.
“A Slim Panetela has a net selling price of 12.50 per cigar in a box of 25 cigars for P312.50 per box. If we apply the tax as per Sec 145 (A), the selling price of a Slim Panetela will jump to P162.50 per piece and a box of 25’s will sell for P4,062.50. This is a 1,300-percent increase in selling price.”
He also notes that any taxes the government plans on correcting from the hike won’t come through, because these businesses won’t exist.
As the cigar manufacturer points out, the tax will essentially clear out local businesses, in both alcohol and tobacco, and clear the way for European and other companies to enter the market without local competition.
In the past few weeks, FineTobaccoNYC has been continuing our “Cigar Wars” series, centered on the fight over regulation of the premium cigar industry. We’ve posted quite a few articles from the perspective of the industry, particularly small businesses.
Recently, though, I’ve been reading articles presenting the other side of the issue, and I want to share one that I think presents a pretty good argument for the other side. In “Why protect cigars that are aimed at children?”, Marshall C. Deason of the American Lung Association presents his case for FDA regulation of cigars. I’d encourage you to click on the link and take a read.
For those of you don’t click the link, the most potent argument he makes (in my opinion), is that, if cigars are exempted from FDA oversight, tobacco companies will change their business strategy to market and sell more flavored cigars to children. He notes that products like cigarillos and Swisher Sweets would be exempted as well under the proposed exemption rules. Deason writes,
“Products that could claim to be exempted include Swisher Sweets blunts and cigarillos, which are available in flavors such as chocolate, strawberry, grape and peach, and Phillies cigarillos, which come in flavors including watermelon, sour apple, mango, banana and coconut. Data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health show that Phillies and Swisher Sweets are among the most popular cigar brands among youth age 12-17.”
I’d be curious to know if our readers find Deason’s arguments compelling. What do you think?
By now, everyone is aware of the increasing push in the United States, headed by the FDA, to regulate the sale, advertisement, and enjoyment of premium cigars. In response, the industry as a whole has made a big effort to try to ensure that premium cigars can still be enjoyed. Small lounges, for the most part, have stuck to promoting the DC lobbying efforts and encouraging customers to join Cigar Rights of America. Some, however, have broken the mold.
The past couple of years has seen the growth of an interesting idea: mobile cigar shops. Broadway Cigar, in my hometown of Portland, OR, launched the “Lounge and Safe Haven for Cigar Smokers” – a mobile truck with a beautiful interior and thousands of premium cigars (pictures below).
And Broadway isn’t the only cigar company going mobile. Ron and Wendy Reidi of Moore Township, Pennsylvania created their own mobile cigar lounge called Street Car Cigars.
What’s in it, you ask? Not just cigars. Inside is an expansive space that can seat more than a dozen (that’s more than some New York City cigar lounges!) and also has flat screen T.V.s and a stereo system.
I’m not sure exactly how many mobile cigar shops there are in the U.S. so far, but I’ll be excited to see more. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll be lucky enough to see one of these mobile cigar shops sitting somewhere in Manhattan.
Ok, that’s stretching the imagination a bit. But it would be pretty cool.
Know of any other cool lounges or mobile shops? Let us know about them in the comments section below!
As the summer drags on and the FDA continues to decide what form of pleasure it will kill next, more and more media outlets are interviewing cigar shop owners around the country about the proposed regulations. And wouldn’t you know it, shop owners are actually confirming that if they are forced to sell from catalogs, place death stickers on cigars, etc, they might have to close!
From the article:
“Josh Johnson is worried the restrictions will force him to shutdown his Huntersville store, Burner’s Cigar Co. ‘That’s our biggest fear that its gonna put us out of business. It’s that it’s gonna put such heavy restrictions that we aren’t going to be able to cater to our customer’s needs,’ he said.”
What I find most unfortunate here is that, in the grand scheme of things, the FDA probably doesn’t care that it could end centuries of tradition, culture, and art that is associated with the premium cigar industry. As others have pointed out, premium cigars are not marketed to the young, nor are they anywhere near the right price range for children to buy.
Does any of this matter? Probably not. Could regulations at some point be the right option? Sure, given the right circumstances, I think they could, and I applaud the FDA for much of the work they have done. What is troubling is when the witch-hunt for health gets out of hand.
Matthias recently sat down with Ronnie Parisella, CRA ambassador and FineTobaccoNYC contributing writer to chat about local and national cigar politics, with a focus on New York City. If you are a cigar smoker in New York City and want to know how you can help protect your rights, or get to know your CRA rep a bit more, then read on.
When did you originally begin smoking cigars, and what brought you in?
I was working for Charles Schwab & Co, Inc. in Brooklyn as a help desk engineer in 1997. Cigars and the economy were booming, and the NYC cigar scene was very active. This was before Bloomberg stopped smoking in bars & restaurants. My first cigar was an Ashton Maduro that I purchased from Barclay Rex on Broad St. downtown. I loved talking cigars with shop reps and still do. I’ve never walked into a humidor and failed to learn something useful. I love listening to guys argue about cigars as well, as it is all about taste. Give 5 different smokers the same cigar, and you might get 5 different sets of tasting notes. it’s all about preference, and there are nearly unlimited options available.
What is the greatest smoking experience you’ve ever had? (cigar, location, atmosphere, occasion, etc)
How about a random one? About a month ago, I was walking down 6th Ave. in NYC, when I was stopped by a police officer. As he asked me about my cigar, I assumed I was going to get harassed for smoking on the sidewalk (which is apparently illegal in NYC now), but instead, the officer told me how much he loved cigars and began to rattle off about a dozen of his favorite brands and sizes. He was such a nice guy that after we chatted, (and I gave him a couple of old CA copies I had in my bag), he popped the trunk on his cruiser, pulled out a small bag of cigars and gave me a Cuban Cohiba #2. It was an interesting NYC experience, and one that I’m sure Mayor Bloomberg, would love to eliminate in the future.
What is it about Cigar Rights of America that you find so compelling that you volunteer your time?
A common misconception regarding the anti-smoking movement is that it is solely geared toward cigarettes. It targets all smoking products including cigars. All 50 states in the US have some form of a smoking ban or a tax on tobacco products. The primary goal of the anti-smoking movement is to eventually outlaw all tobacco products. Cigar Rights of America (CRA) was founded on the principle of fighting for the freedom to enjoy cigars. CRA is a Non-Profit Consumer Grassroots Organization that works with local, state and federal governments to protect the freedoms of cigar enthusiasts.
What do you find the most common reason behind the public’s willingness to support smoking bans and tax increases?
Cigarettes. Our biggest challenge in fighting for our freedom to enjoy premium hand rolled cigars, is separating the public’s perception of tobacco. The premium hand rolled cigar industry consists of centuries old techniques that respect the land, the crop and the tradition of the industry. Big Tobacco is completely the opposite, driven by corporate greed and shareholders. The cigar industry does not intentionally make their products addictive. No additional tar, nicotine, ammonia, etc. is added to premium hand rolled tobacco. To the contrary, many steps in the fermentation/curing process specifically remove impurities from the leaf. On a recent trip to Davidoff’s Camp Camacho in Jamastran, Honduras CA, General Manager Sandra L. Ochoa described that the process is what keeps cigar tobacco from going stale, even though it gets dry. Cigarette tobacco is much more processed and cannot be revived indefinitely, like premium hand rolled cigars.
In recent years there have been quite a few increases in the amount of tobacco taxes and regulations on cigar smokers around the country. What would you say is the primary battle ground for cigar rights advocates? Local, state, or federal?
While the federal anti-tobacco movement is geared at cigarette smoking, the premium hand rolled cigar industry is still unfairly lumped in with all tobacco use. I believe that we can raise awareness about the threat to our freedoms. Unite at your local Premium Cigar Shop, with enough support, we can fight this inclusion with facts and education.
Given CRA’s mission, they are clearly very aware of the proposed invasion of the cigar industry by the FDA. What are the proposed policies, and why are they so dangerous?
Overall, I applaud the FDA for intervening in the free market to prevent underage smokers. The main concern is while the FDA has stated their investigations and focus will remain on the cigarette and not cigar industries, they may choose to do so in the future. The policies aren’t the issue. The issue is that there is no clear definition that separates the premiums hand rolled cigar industry from mass-produced, intentionally-addictive cigarette and chewing tobacco industries. I am behind the Gov’t’s intention to make tobacco use less appealing to underage Americans. I am not happy that I can no longer by D’Jarum Cloves in NYC, but I get it, and am not too upset.
What are the basic principles behind the CRA’s strategy to protect our right to enjoy fine tobacco?
This is a basic “no taxation without representation” issue. If the premium hand rolled cigar manufacturers are to be taxed, they should be taxed at rates in line with non-addictive products. This is an industry, a product of camaraderie and of brotherhood. Our NYS tobacco tax rate of 75% is ridiculous compared to some other states (i.e. Kansas – 10%). The disparity is often tied to the the aggressiveness & tenacity of local officials. NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg has reportedly contributed $220M of his own to the Anti-Tobacco movement.
As a resident of New York City, what do you think lies behind Mayor Bloomberg’s massive increase in tobacco regulation? What do you think his end-game is?
The Mayor wants his city to be the nicest in the world.
What can the average cigar smoker in the U.S. do to help keep the culture alive?