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Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 395

15 Aug 2014

As we have since July 2006, each Friday we’ll post a mixed bag of quick cigar news and other items of interest. Below is our latest Friday Sampler.

Capitol Building1) One week ago, the public comment period was closed on the FDA’s attempt to effectively regulate new handamde cigars out of existence. Before that deadline passed, though, eight U.S. senators—Bill Nelson (D-FL), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), David Vitter (R-LA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Pat Toomey (R-PA), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), and Joe Manchin (D-WV)—wrote their own letter to the FDA, urging the agency to exempt premium cigars, and to eliminate the retail price requirement for that exemption. “A premium cigar should be defined as any roll of tobacco that is wrapped in 100% leaf tobacco, bunched with 100% tobacco filler, contains no filter, tip, or non-tobacco mouthpiece, and weighs at least 6 pounds per 1,000 count,” they said. “It also must either have a 100% leaf tobacco binder and be hand-rolled, or have a homogenized tobacco leaf binder and be made in the United States using human hands to lay the 100% leaf tobacco wrapper onto only one machine that bunches, wraps, and caps each individual cigar.” While there is no deadline for the FDA to act, some expect the FDA to issue its regulations next summer, with legal challenges sure to follow.

2) Officials in Charlotte have proposed the criminalization of smoking cigars in parks, greenways, and golf courses, in addition to a separate ordinance that would ban smoking on the grounds of government buildings. A public hearing has been scheduled for September 2, with a vote expected on September 17.

3) Contest: StogieGuys.com readers who register at CigarsFor.Me this week will once again be registered to win a free five-pack of cigars. CigarsFor.me specializes in recommending customers the perfect premium cigars without having to go through endless hours of research. Users simply fill out their quick Palate Profile and instantly they’re shown cigars that they’ll love. It’s fun, easy, and this week you can win free smokes. Click here. Congrats to last week’s winner: Jay Dolas from West Henrietta, NY.

4) Inside the Industry: A.J. Fernandez released an online mini-documentary. Despite its gratuitous and slightly stereotypical use of images of Fernandez walking (and riding a horse) through his fields to Buena Vista Social Club music, the 12-minute video does a good job of capturing the process of making cigars and providing some insights into A.J. Fernandez’s background. Watch the whole thing here.

5) Deal of the Week: Looking to try what Sindicato Cigars has to offer? This sampler is way to do it. Just $40 ($4 per cigar) gets you two each of all four Sindicato lines: Hex, Casa Bella, Affinity, and Sindicato.

-The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Flickr

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 394

8 Aug 2014

As we have since July 2006, each Friday we’ll post a mixed bag of quick cigar news and other items of interest. Below is our latest Friday Sampler.

Gran Habano1) Gran Habano this week issued a press release claiming the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has taken issue with the company’s name. The government says “the brand name ‘Gran Habano’ is misleading the public to think we are selling cigars from Cuba. We all in the cigar industry know that this is not true… All retail locations know that Gran Habano products are not manufactured in Cuba and are grown in Honduras and Nicaragua, as all labels on Gran Habano cigars state.” Gran Habano is asking retailers and customers to send in their comments to help the company dispute this claim. If you would like to help, please email us, and we’ll provide you with the Word document form that declares you understand Gran Habano is not a Cuban cigar company.

2) There is no tomorrow to oppose to the FDA’s attempt to effectively regulate new handamde cigars out of existence. Leave your comment here. (Need help figuring out what to say? See our tip here.)

3) Contest: StogieGuys.com readers who register at CigarsFor.Me this week will once again be registered to win a free five-pack of cigars. CigarsFor.me specializes in recommending customers the perfect premium cigars without having to go through endless hours of research. Users simply fill out their quick Palate Profile and instantly they’re shown cigars that they’ll love. It’s fun, easy, and this week you can win free smokes. Click here. Congrats to last week’s winner: Aaron Brough from Atascadero, CA.

4) Inside the Industry: The Macanudo Estate Reserve is returning to its Jamaican roots. Only 1,800 boxes per size will be released starting this September in three sizes (Robusto, Belicoso, and Churchill), each in 10-count boxes that will retail for $160-180. The blend uses a Connecticut shade-grown wrapper, Mexican binder, and filler from Jamaica.

5) Deal of the Week: This sampler deal features five top-notch cigars for just $26. For over 40% off retail price you get one each of the Room 101 Master Mutante, Fausto Avion 2011, Padilla Connecticut Double Toro, La Gloria Cubana Retro Club, and Schizo Robusto.

-The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Gran Habano

Commentary: Our Comment to the FDA on Regulating Cigars

7 Aug 2014

FDA-cigars-large

The deadline for submitting comments on the FDA’s proposed cigar regulations is Friday, August 8 (tomorrow). If you haven’t yet registered your opinion to help protect handmade cigars, please do so. (See our tip for what to tell the FDA here.)

As you might expect, here at StogieGuys.com we’re registering our comment, and we wanted to share with you what we told the FDA:

We strongly oppose the FDA extending its jurisdiction as proposed in the Deeming Document, and specifically oppose any attempt by the FDA to regulate handmade cigars. However, if the FDA moves forward with the regulations proposed in the deeming document, it should employ the exemption proposed under Option 2, with the following changes: (1) any reference to cigar pricing ($10 or otherwise) should be eliminated from the definition of cigars exempt under Option 2, and (2) the requirement that cigars not have characterizing flavors should be eliminated.

In support of this position, we submit the following points:

Cigars are fundamentally different from cigarettes and most other types of tobacco.

As the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief, respectively, of StogieGuys.com we have been writing about handmade cigars since 2006 and have published thousands of articles and over 750 reviews of handmade cigars. The very nature of our site shows why FDA regulation of handmade, or “premium,” cigars is unwarranted.

A similar site about cigarettes would never exist and could not generate the readership that our site has because cigarettes are a nicotine delivery device, while cigars are a handmade product which exists completely independent of its ability—or more realistically, relative lack of ability—to deliver nicotine. What makes certain cigars good or bad has nothing to do with the nicotine content, and everything to do with the skill that went into making and blending them.

For a person seeking to fulfill their addiction or desire for nicotine, handmade cigars will always be an unappealing and irrational way to attempt to fulfill that desire.  This is particularly true for minors (for whom purchasing tobacco products are already illegal) because they will always have more access to other tobacco products, and will always find that there are easier ways to obtain nicotine through products that are already approved under existing tobacco regulations.

The FDA should not extend authority at all, and certainly not to handmade cigars, because it lacks the ability to do so.

The FDA, like all government agencies, has a limited budget (our national debt is currently increasing at over $2 billion every day), which is why the real question the FDA should be evaluating is not “Should the FDA should regulate cigars?” but “Should the FDA divert resources from its other activities, including existing tobacco regulations, to regulate cigars?” The answer clearly is no.

The FDA has not shown it has the capacity to carry out its existing tobacco regulations. Of the thousands of new products waiting for approval, only a few dozen have been ruled on so far. This demonstrates the FDA does not have the capacity to extend its regulations to handmade cigars. The FDA is specifically not authorized by Congress to ban cigars or other types of tobacco, and given the inability to handle existing pending approvals, expanding jurisdiction to handmade cigars would result in a de facto ban on new cigars because the agency has not demonstrated the ability to approve additional tobacco products at all, let alone in a timely fashion.

Given that Congress mandated that the FDA regulate cigarettes, but left it up to the agency’s discretion whether or not to regulate cigars, the FDA should respect the priorities of Congress and not add cigars to its already overwhelmed regulatory jurisdiction. This is compounded by the number of new cigar products that are introduced every year. While there is no reason to believe that new cigars are at all different in their impact on public health (new products are almost entirely made by changing the blend and ratio of tobaccos used in existing products) every year hundreds or even thousands (if new sizes are each considered a new product) of new cigars are introduced. This would overwhelm existing FDA product approvals and make it more difficult for the agency to fulfill its core mission of regulating cigarettes.

If the FDA erroneously chooses to regulate cigars, it should adopt a premium handmade cigar exemption that doesn’t rely on an arbitrary price, or flavor distinctions.

In the Deeming Document the FDA proposes Option 2, which includes an exemption for premium cigars. This is an important realization of the fact that premium handmade cigars do not pose the same public health concerns that cigarettes do. However, the arbitrary and unscientific $10 price floor should be abandoned.

Simply put, there is no scientific or public health reason for the exemption to rely on a $10 retail price, and the FDA has never demonstrated that one exists. Furthermore, the arbitrary price point doesn’t reflect any reality of the handmade cigar industry. If the FDA insists on a price-based definition of handmade or premium cigars, it should look to Congress to draw the line. To the extent Congress has drawn such a line, it did so in the SCHIP tax rates, which decided to limit taxes to the first 40.26 cents of the wholesale price per cigar. More importantly, any definition that includes production techniques will make it impossible to produce a cigar below a certain price, which sets an organic, as opposed to an arbitrary, price definition.

“Flavored” or infused cigars also represent an arbitrary and unscientific differentiation that should be rejected. No evidence that we know of, or has been presented by the FDA, demonstrates that these cigars pose any additional public health risks.

For these reasons, if the FDA intends to base its regulations on scientific evidence and not on arbitrary standards, it should reject any definition of premium or handmade cigars that includes flavor or a price, while it adopts an exemption for premium handmade cigars.

FDA regulations on premium cigars will cost jobs, both domestically and abroad.

It should also not go unnoticed that aside from the dubious public health justifications for regulating handmade cigars, there are significant human costs to such regulations. Thousands of jobs within the United States would be put at risk if the FDA regulates handmade cigars as proposed, and tens of thousands of individuals in developing countries (particularly the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, and Honduras) would lose one of their best opportunities for a good job.

The burdens that proposed FDA regulations pose to small businesses—whether cigar shops in this country or cigar factories abroad—would have a huge costs and eliminate countless jobs, especially in places where good jobs are very hard to find. So while regulating cigars would accomplish little if anything in regards to public health here in the United States, it would effectively doom tens of thousands of people to worse lives. Any calculus for public health should not ignore this serious impact.

The FDA should focus on existing regulations, not expanding new regulations to handmade cigars.

Given the existing backload of tobacco products waiting for a ruling from the FDA, it is clear that the agency lacks the resources to regulate cigars. Because diverting limited resources to regulating cigars means less resources for other FDA activities—specifically other tobacco regulations—regulating handmade cigars is not only unnecessary but actually detrimental to the FDA’s public health goals. To the extent there is any doubt on this issue, the FDA should defer any decision on regulating cigars to a later date after it proves capable of fulfilling its existing mandate to regulate cigarettes and other types of tobacco that can have a substantial impact on public health.

As handmade cigar smokers and experts writing about the industry daily since 2006, it is abundantly clear to us that handmade cigars are inherently different from other tobacco products. In proposing an exemption for premium cigars it did just that, but it did so in a clumsy and arbitrary way. If the FDA is serious about fulfilling its Congressionally-authorized mandate, it should not expand its regulations to include handmade cigars. However, if the FDA insists on expanding oversight it should adopt a broad exemption for handmade premium cigars that does not include a characterizing flavor or arbitrary price definition.

Failure to take these suggestions into consideration will make clear to cigar smokers and the premium tobacco industry that the FDA is less interested in public health and more concerned with stifling cigar innovation, eliminating cigar-related jobs, increasing the costs of cigars, and limiting the ability of consenting adults to enjoy premium cigars.

-The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Stogie Guys

 

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 393

1 Aug 2014

As we have since July 2006, each Friday we’ll post a mixed bag of quick cigar news and other items of interest. Below is our latest Friday Sampler.

Cohiba Nicaragua1) With the 82nd annual IPCPR Trade Show recently concluded in Las Vegas, there are a host of new cigar releases to report on and review. Heck, General Cigar alone launched a bevy of cigars that will soon be arriving on the shelves of a tobacconist near you. They include two CAO blends. CAO Amazon Basin is a small batch, limited edition release made with rare Brazilian tobacco from a remote region in the Amazonian Rainforest. And CAO Colombia is the first cigar to prominently feature Ica Mazinga, a Colombian tobacco from a mountainous region called Montes de Maria. Perhaps chief among General Cigar’s new additions, however, is the Cohiba Nicaragua, the first Cohiba to be blended and handcrafted in Nicaragua. The line will retail in the $10-15 space and continue the recent trend of storied non-Nicaraguan cigars issuing Nicaraguan offshoots to capitalize on the popularity of that country’s tobacco.

2) Since January, it has been illegal to smoke in Boston’s public parks. As the Boston Globe reports, that will make this year’s Freedom Rally rather interesting. “Organizers of the Freedom Rally, a marijuana-centric gathering on the Boston Common, are gearing up to celebrate their 25th consecutive year of bringing together thousands of people to advocate for the legalization of the leafy drug,” reports the Globe. “But for the first time in the history of the annual festival, where event attendees are known to smoke pot, listen to bands, and hear speakers share their knowledge about marijuana policy, police will be out in full force to crack down on scofflaws lighting up in the public park based on a new city ordinance.” Cops say they will be treating the rally’s participants the same as they would treat a cigar smoker in a park: by handing out a $250 fine.

3) Contest: StogieGuys.com readers who register at CigarsFor.Me this week will once again be registered to win a free five-pack of cigars. CigarsFor.me specializes in recommending customers the perfect premium cigars without having to go through endless hours of research. Users simply fill out their quick Palate Profile and instantly they’re shown cigars that they’ll love. It’s fun, easy, and this week you can win free smokes. Click here. Congrats to last week’s winner: Hyland Ford from Oak Hills, California.

4) Inside the Industry: D’Crossier Cigars is adding a limited (24,000 cigar annually) L’Forte blend which comes in four sizes and has a Costa Rican wrapper around Nicaraguan and Dominican filler tobaccos. At the recent industry convention, Nomad released its new C-276 blend, which is made at A.J. Fernandez’s Nicaraguan factory from an Oscuro Habano wrapper from Ecuador, and binder and filler from Nicaragua.

5) Deal of the Week: Corona Cigar Co. is featuring new six-pack samplers for just $25. Currently, there are seven choices with various themes including Altadis, Oliva, Connecticut-wrapped cigars, Alec Bradley, and Maduro cigars.

-The Stogie Guys

photo credit: General Cigar

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 392

25 Jul 2014

As we have since July 2006, each Friday we’ll post a mixed bag of quick cigar news and other items of interest. Below is our latest Friday Sampler.

National Cigar Policy Center1) Cigar Rights of America (CRA) and Tobacconist University have announced the formation of the National Cigar Policy Center, a portal of legislation that has been filed at the local and state levels that can advance the interests of premium cigar manufacturers, retail tobacconists, and consumers. “For some time, we have been collecting model bills that can advance the legislative agenda of premium cigar interests,” said Glynn Loope, executive director of CRA. “There is now a body of legislation that can serve the industry nationwide, by simply sharing this information. Even if a bill did not become law, it can serve a valuable purpose by assisting other states or communities.” Issues addressed at the National Cigar Policy Center include smoking regulations, taxes, cigar definitions, and the establishment of cigar bars and lounges. In addition, CRA and Tobacconist University are forming an advisory group of sitting and former legislators from across the country who can serve as a resource for advancing legislation that is beneficial to the industry.

2) The 82nd annual International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR) Trade Show has come to an end. That makes now a great time to be a cigar smoker. New releases that were announced at the convention in Las Vegas will soon be hitting the shelves of a retailer near you. StogieGuys.com is here to help sort through what’s worth smoking. Stay tuned as we bring you trusted reviews of many of these new cigars. (This week alone we reviewed three new cigars: RoMa Craft Neanderthal, Joya Red, and Eiroa CBT Maduro.)

3) Contest: StogieGuys.com readers who register at CigarsFor.Me this week will be registered to win a free five-pack of cigars. CigarsFor.me specializes in recommending customers the perfect premium cigars without having to go through endless hours of research. Users simply fill out their quick Palate Profile and instantly they’re shown cigars that they’ll love. It’s fun, easy, and this week you can win free smokes. Click here.

4) Inside the Industry: La Flor Dominicana has introduced a 1994 Limited Edition Beer Stein in honor of the company’s 20th anniversary. The unique packaging is filled with a new cigar made with filler and binder tobaccos grown on La Canela in the Dominican Republic, wrapped in a Mexican San Andrés maduro wrapper.

5) Deal of the Week: Smoke Inn’s Deal of the Week (which goes live at noon today) features a dozen smokes for under $3 per cigar. While supplies last, $32.95 gets you two each of the Ortega Wild Bunch Wild Bill, Warlock Toro, Nestor Miranda Special Selection Coffee Break, Gran Habano Azteca Aguila, Toraño Exodus 59 Churchill, and Perdomo Noir Robusto.

-The Stogie Guys

photo credit: CRA

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 391

18 Jul 2014

As we have since July 2006, each Friday we’ll post a mixed bag of quick cigar news and other items of interest. Below is our latest Friday Sampler.

New World1) For the first time in his career, famed cigar maker A.J. Fernandez is teaming up with his father, Ismael Fernandez, to unveil a new cigar. Called “New World,” it is expected to debut at the upcoming IPCPR Trade Show. “The New World cigar relates to expanding one’s knowledge and questioning the status quo by discovering our personal New Worlds as we go through life,” said A.J. in a press release. “The team at A.J. Fernandez Cigars is grateful for the amazing support we have received from the consumer and therefore will offer the New World cigar at a value price as we invite everyone to join us on our New World journey.” New World will retail for $6 and be offered in four sizes: robusto, belicoso, toro, and gordo. It will feature a Nicaraguan wrapper around a Jalapa binder and filler tobaccos from Nicaragua.

2) According to a Cigar Insider poll of tobacconists across the U.S., Padrón is the country’s best-selling brand for the seventh year in a row. Padrón was followed by Arturo Fuente, Davidoff, and Romeo y Julieta. The survey also found two-thirds of shops reported higher overall sales than the previous year.

3) Inside the Industry: In what is a cigar industry first, the Meerapfel family, long known for their Cameroon wrappers, is combining Nicaraguan and Cuban tobacco in the same cigar. According to Cigar Aficionado, the new brand, La Estancia, is made with a Nicaraguan wrapper and binder, and equal parts Nicaraguan and Cuban filler. The cigars are made at an undisclosed Honduran factory in two sizes: Robusto (4.9 x 50) and Corona (5.1 x 42).

4) Contest Update: New Jersey lawyer Steven Jayson is the latest StogieGuys.com contest winner, getting a copy of the beautiful book, Tobacco Sheds: Vanishing Treasures in the Connecticut River Valley. A cigar smoker for about four years, Steven says the Onyx Reserve Mini Belicoso “got me through studying for the bar.” Congrats, Steven.

5) Deal of the Week: This Silver Tray Sampler has five top-notch cigars for $26. Included are one each of the following: Crowned Heads Four Kicks Selección No. 5, RyJ 1875 Romeo’s Court, My Father El Centurion Belicoso, Tatuaje Regios, and Kristoff Sumatra Corona.

-The Stogie Guys

photo credit: A.J. Fernandez

Stogie Guys Friday Sampler No. 390

11 Jul 2014

As we have since July 2006, each Friday we’ll post a mixed bag of quick cigar news and other items of interest. Below is our latest Friday Sampler.

Captiva1) The 2014 IPCPR Trade Show is just eight days away, and many new releases have been announced in anticipation of the biggest cigar event of the year. Among them is the Charlie Toraño Captiva, the first cigar to bear Charlie Toraño’s name. “Working alongside his father and industry legend Carlos Toraño for 15 years, Charlie has had his hand in creating unique cigar brands under the family name as well as for countless other major distributors,” reads a Toraño press release. “Charlie, who has held the title of President of Toraño Family Cigar Company for over a decade, felt it was time to create a cigar under his own name which represents his personal tastes and pastimes.” Named for a small island off the coast of Florida where Charlie takes his family each summer, Capitva sports an Ecuadorian wrapper around Nicaraguan fillers and will be sold in four sizes for $7.95 to $8.95. Charlie says the cigar “represents the slow rhythms of the island.”

2) Also expected at the IPCPR Trade Show in Las Vegas is the debut of La Palina Black Label. The line will be available in four sizes—Gordo, Toro, Robusto, and Petit Lancero—and includes a Brazilian Bahaino wrapper around tobaccos from Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. The Classic Blend is the only other La Palina line to feature a Brazilian wrapper.

3) Inside the Industry: Kuuts Nicaraguan Blend—which has an Ecuadrian Habano wrapper around Nicaraguan binder and filler—is ready for release, with shipments to stores starting in August. In a pairing of two up-and-coming outfits, Toronto-based Mombacho Cigars S.A. has entered into an exclusive U.S. distribution agreement with Texas-based RoMa Craft Tobac, maker of Cromagnon, Aquitaine, and Intemperance.

4) Deal of the Week: This Super Ten Sampler takes over 50% off two big-name classic cigars. Just $37 bucks lands you five each of the Montecristo Classic Toro and the Romeo y Julieta Habana Reserve Toro.

-The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Toraño