Why does the Obama White House refuse to answer a petition regarding the forthcoming Food & Drug Administration (FDA) regulation of cigars, when it has answered numerous other petitions that were filed more recently and had fewer signers?
In 2011, the Obama White House announced We The People. The concept was simple. “Individuals will be able to create and sign petitions seeking action from the federal government on a range of issues. If a petition gathers enough signatures, White House staff will review it, ensure it is sent to the appropriate policy experts, and issue an official response.”
Originally the threshold for an official response was 5,000 signatures within 30 days, but later it was raised to 25,000 signers, and more recently to 100,000. For the most part it worked as intended. According to WHPetitions.info, which tracks the 235 petitions that have reached the required threshold, 209 (88%) have received the promised response, with an average wait time of just 69 days.
But not all petitions have been answered in a timely fashion, including one about cigars. On April 11, 2012, Jeff Borysiewicz, owner of Corona Cigar Co. in Orlando, filed the petition asking the President to order the FDA to not use its discretion to regulate handmade cigars:
Dear Mr. President:
The FDA is considering the creation of regulations for the premium cigar industry. These regulations will jeopardize over 85,000 American jobs, destroy America’s “mom and pop” premium cigar retailers and manufacturers, and risk over 250,000 jobs in Latin America that produce cigars, impacting the economic/political stability in the region.
We hope you will stand up for small businesses that dot Main Street America and recognize that premium cigars are enjoyed by adults, are not addictive, and therefore do not conform to the Congressional intent of the Family Smoking Prevention & Tobacco Control Act.
Tell the FDA to leave our premium cigars alone. With this nation’s more pressing issues, harming my simple ability to enjoy a cigar should not be a priority of the government.
Cigar consumers, grassroots activists, websites, cigar sellers, and manufacturers soon banded together to promote the petition. By April 25, it reached the 25,000 signatures needed to qualify for an official response from the administration. Before the 30-day deadline ended, the petition collected nearly 39,000 signatures.
While the average response has taken just over two months, 19 months have passed and the Administration has not yet issued any answer to the 39,000 people who signed in favor of protecting cigars. Only one other petition has been pending longer.
photo credit: White House