The ink is barely dry on the the 499 page ruling released by the FDA regarding their regulation of tobacco, including–but not limited to–premium cigars. “Our worst nightmare has arrived”, said Rocky Patel during an exclusive interview with Cigar & Spirits.
Rocky went on to say, “All of the the evidence, everything that we’ve presented [to the FDA]…all the efforts on the hill, the FDA has slapped us in the face and made a laughingstock of our industry. It [the FDA] is being reckless with this extreme ruling, which borders on prohibition.”
When asked about the breadth of the ruling Rocky stated that it is “It’s a direct blow against evidence, against meaningful comments that were submitted, issues that were very important to everybody in the industry that weighed in on [the issue] and they [FDA] just rejected everything.” According to Rocky, the data points that the FDA utilized in coming to their decision are incorrectly skewed to represent a high margin of machine-made and small cigars…cigars that no one would consider premium cigars. “It’s a sad day, to think that a [governmental] agency can be so unscrupulous and reckless.”
When it comes to the impact on the consumer, Rocky points to the total ban on sampling cigars, “You wont be able to give out a sample cigar for a consumer to try.” This can end up having a major impact on cigar events, and retail tobacconists that count on small events with samples to drive sales.
Rocky continued on, stating that manufacturers themselves are now facing the prospect of paying huge costs for testing each cigar brought to market after 2007. “Obviously it’s going to be costly, and the most expensive part of this. It seems to me, right now, all the cigars after 2007 are going to go through this really really strict regulation, which is cost prohibitive. Some of our analysis says $300,000-$400,000 per cigar/per SKU/per blend. It’s very very far reaching…This is just the beginning of the nightmare. Who knows what they’re going to keep coming up with after this…Now that the rule is out it’s going to wipe out 70%-75% of the industry, that’s my opinion…Hopefully we can get some legislative relief. We still have the bill in appropriations, but that’s still only a 1 year fix. We need a permanent solution. We need to get that bill out of the House and into the Senate.”
We asked Rocky what consumers can do to help. “Well, the first thing is obviously join the CRA, number 1. Number 2, pay attention to all the directives that have been issued by the CRA and IPCPR and Unite. Certainly call their congressmen and senators and remind them that this is a legal point that is almost reaching prohibition.”