Thanks to Rocky Patel and his fervent resolve, the future of premium cigars doesn’t look as bleak today as it did during the early months of 2013. However, the uncertain future of the centuries-old industry does continue to terrify cigar makers.
“I think and I hope that premium cigars will be regulated, if at all, very differently from the mass market product. I am hopeful but I am also scared,” said Patel. “It is a crime. It is scary.”
Rocky Patel has not been shy in his quest to save the premium cigar market. He has been the strongest advocate behind the public outcry against stringent regulations and government meddling. Plus, he has been the driving force behind the push to convince Congress that premium cigars are much different than machine mades sold in convenience stores.
“I think we became the unintended consequence of regulation. The FDA was not trying to regulate premium cigars but the definition of premium cigars is very broad in the tax code,” said Patel. “We came under the crossfire of the FDA trying to regulate machine-made ‘convenience store’ cigars with tips and filters on them.”
“A premium cigar is all natural tobacco, made by hand without filters or tips that has a wrapper, a binder, and a filler blend,” said Patel. “We are asking Congress to accept this definition and give us an exemption from regulations.”
The proposed regulations have become a political battle of epic proportions. It is very difficult for premium cigar companies to weigh in on big tobacco and big cigarette companies who have been lobbying politicians for years.
“Politicians don’t always do the right thing,” Patel said. “When you are funded by these companies for years it is not about what is right and what is wrong so we are trying to educate the politicians and expose them. Hopefully the right thing is done.”
An exemption is extremely important for the premium cigar industry. If they are not exempt, but do happen to escape this battle unscathed, the war will not be over. Countless members of the so-called “Pleasure Police” will regroup and resume their attack on premium cigars year after year.
“I am hoping and hopeful that we will get an exemption from the FDA or at least the regulations will not be as such that it will destroy our industry,” Patel said. “I truly believe that the best course for the long run will be to get a legislative exemption of some type but the political climate is so difficult.”
Difficult? Yes because there are so many jaded politicians in Congress and Senate that are in the back pockets of big tobacco. This makes the premium cigar manufacturers the ‘little guys’ in this battle of David vs. Goliath because they are simply out-funded. Premium cigar makers roll out 250 million cigars a year compared to machine mades that produce 14.2 billion per year. The cigarette companies manufacture a staggering 5.5 trillion cigarettes per year. The economics just don’t add up for the premium cigar industry.
“Big companies want regulation so the little guys can’t withstand the demands,” said Patel. “When I go to bed at night I am not worried about competition. I worry about the government and I worry about people who don’t put in their fair share to protect our industry.”
If the U.S. government enacts the regulations as proposed, the ripple effect on the global economy will be devastating. The entire world has been struggling with economic hardships in one way or another and the U.S. government wants to add fuel to an inferno that has been burning for nearly 10 years now.
“It is going to be devastating to other countries,” Patel said. “There are entire cities in Nicaragua and Honduras like Estelí and Danli where 75% of the population lives and depends on the premium cigar industry. I think almost 70% of the workforce are single mothers.”
Patel went on to say, “These communities will be destroyed by these regulations. The next big thing that is going to happen is people are going to turn to cocaine and marijuana. Crime will increase and immigration issues will rise.”
People all around the world, including Americans, have given generations to savor and showcase premium cigars as an art form. Cigar lounges are gathering places for people to smoke, communicate and revel in merriment. The culture surrounding premium cigars is different than anything else in the world.
“Premium cigar shops are great places for people to get together and to educate themselves about all the art that we make,” Patel said. “These regulations are going to destroy countries and towns, and it will destroy ‘mom and pop’ businesses where people have dedicated their lives and businesses to showcasing premium cigars.”
It is clear that the FDA is feeling heavy pressure from lobbyist and other interest groups looking out for their well being only. These regulations, if approved, will be a grave mistake with catastrophic results, and U.S. politicians will maintain their reputation for being selfish, power hungry simpletons.