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Cigar Regulations and the Little Guy

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: This is a guest article by Rob McKeon of CigarZen, manufacturer of the Blüme family of products. CW makes no product endoresements as a matter of policy.


It’s tough out here for us cigar smokers!

As we all know, tobacco has been highly regulated and the level of those regulations seems to keep climbing, almost by the day. For cigar lovers, it seems unfair that the products we use--to relax, to de-compress, to celebrate--are becoming more and more difficult to acquire.

While we can all appreciate the government’s desire to keep tobacco far away from kids, it’s hard to see the justification behind including cigars in its recent rigorous FDA rulings which were originally intended for smokeless tobacco only. The act of cigar smoking is almost artistic in its nature, viewed as a sign of sophistication, hard work and appreciation for the craftsmanship behind each stick. While it’s easy for a teenager to get their hands on a cheap pack of cigarettes, they’re likely not going to get too far in an artisanal cigar store.

One of the biggest issues we know about these new regulations is that all newly manufactured cigars, including all cigars created after the year 2007, will go through government testing before being sold. For the smokers, it’s a pain, but for the small businesses who have been supplying our favorite cigars for years, it could be life-threatening considering the slow-down of sales and possible cuts from favorite brands.

Most of our favorite stores should be alright--Famous Smoke Shop, JR Cigar, and Neptune Cigars just to name a few--they all have enough stock on their shelves that they would be covered should any product be taken off the market. But the smaller artisanal shops, perhaps sitting in the corner of town and family-run, will be the ones to suffer. The lengthy review process will cost these shops and hard-working manufacturers, and could lead to shut-downs of either or blog.

Many small cigar companies have already been facing troubles, not only in manufacturing and sales but in advertising. I myself am an example of this; my company, Cigar Zen, has only been in the public view for a few months, but we’re finding it difficult to leap into the industry when there is so much red tape surrounding advertising and online presence. How is a market disruptor with the goal of helping and catering to cigar lovers supposed to do that when online advertising tools, for the most part, prohibit the word ‘cigar’?

Kickstarter, a popular crowdfunding platform that has been around since 2009, has recently become stricter on its rules surrounding tobacco-related projects and rewards. It’s unclear when these policies were put in place, since there are a number of past cigar-related projects on the site, but when my partner and I tried launching a campaign for our new product BLÜME in early November, we were repeatedly shut down (but later able to fund through Indiegogo, who thankfully understands our industry and is more relaxed on the tobacco rules).

So what’s the Little Guy to do when it seems as though the government and online bodies are fighting against our rights to enjoy the finer things in life? The Cigar Rights of America is a great place to start. The CRA’s mission is to protect the rights of the growers, manufacturers, retailers, and consumers of premium cigars. If you’re passionate about the donation of cigars to soldiers, about the ability to choose a perfectly crafted cigar from the walk-in humidor in your favorite shop, or about standing up for the Little Guy, it’s important to take a stand and make your voice heard on all of these issues so close to our hearts.

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