From Couch to Congress
If anyone had told me prior to that day that I would join CRA and later meet with a member of Congress to defend our rights I would have laughed them off as crazy, but there I was, telling my story to Congresswoman Roybal-Allard, and she was listening intently. The reason for the meeting? The FDA had announced in April that they were intending to regulate premium cigars, possibly as soon as February 2012.
From left to right, Eddie D. Tafoya Executive Director, the Commerce Industrial Council, Brian Berman, Director, CRA, Keith K. Park CEO of Prometheus and God of Fire, Attorney Nick Politis, and myself at the post congress meeting at the Omni Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.
Once the FDA takes command, regulation will require nicotine levels be reduced to near zero, ban all walk in humidors at cigar shops, ban online sales of cigars, ban all flavored cigars, force all blends to be tested and approved by the FDA prior to release and, here's the kicker, impose a new tax on all cigar manufacturers to pay for FDA regulatory procedures.
Such regulatory involvement will result in "watered down" versions of your favorite cigar, and push buyers right into the black market. Can you say prohibition? HR bill 1639 puts a stop to FDA regulation, and we needed Congresswoman Royball-Allard to show her support by co-signing the bill.
Cigar Rights of America invited me to attend the meeting along with Brian Berman, Membership Director of CRA, Keith K. Park, CEO of Prometheus and God of Fire, and Attorney Nick Politis. The four of us took turns pleading our case against FDA regulation. Brian was well prepared. He brought a small box of machine made Strawberry flavored Philly Blunts ($3), laying then down next to a box of 10 God of Fire Churchills ($260). The Philly's were comprised of shredded, treated, processed, and additive laden tobacco, while the God of Fire Chuchills were hand-rolled from rare long leaf natural tobacco blends. The congresswoman kept us there for nearly two hours. As our presentation concluded, she warned the danger lay in machine made cigars being incorrectly "lumped in" with premium cigars, or machine cigar manufacturers attempting to present themselves as being in the premium cigar category.
The congresswoman was right, a month after our meeting, a letter was sent to congress from the American Cancer Society, urging them to regulate premium cigars, "We are particularly concerned about the wide range of products that would likely be exempted from any regulation under the bill, including Swisher Sweets, Sweet Chocolate Blunts, Phillies, Sugarillos Cigarillos (described on the box as “when sweet isn’t enough!”), White Owl grape Blunts Xtra, and Optimo peach Blunts. These products come in flavors and are among the most popular with youth." Not only did The American Cancer Society mistake machine made cigars as premiums, but mistakenly assumed the machine made cigars would be exempted under HR 1639.
In the last four months, over 150,000 couch potatoes just like me visited the CRA website, signing an online petition which was sent directly to their local member of congress. If you have not done so, please visit CRA. With the click of a button and 30 seconds of your time, you can have a voice. Who knows, you might end up going from couch to congress.