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Commentary: The FDA Should Not Be in the Business of Regulating Premium Cigars

25 Jul 2018


The deadline for comments to the Food and Drug Administration about whether or not it should regulate handmade cigars are due today at midnight. You should submit your comments here.

If you are wondering what to tell the FDA, we gave some succinct suggestions here. Our comments the FDA were a little more in depth. We reprint them here in their entirety:

As Publisher and Editor-in-Chief, respectively, of the cigar news and review site, and as cigar consumers, we strongly urge the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to completely rescind—or, at the very least, significantly curtail—all FDA regulations that apply to handmade cigars.

We have been reporting and writing about the premium cigar industry for over a decade (since’s founding in May 2006) That level of experience is not required to understand that, because of their natural and handmade production process, premium cigars will always be an inferior product, compared to other tobacco products, when it comes to effective nicotine delivery. That, combined with their high price point, makes premium handmade cigars particularly unattractive to underage tobacco users. In sum, the interests of public health and harm reduction are not served by regulating premium handmade cigars.

Our comments today reincorporate our comments to the FDA from August 27, 2014 in opposition to any regulations of handmade cigars. Our comments then made five key points, each of which continues to be a compelling reason to not regulate handmade cigars, especially when compared to existing efforts to enforce pre-2016 regulations on cigarettes and other tobacco products:

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

2. The FDA should not extend authority at all, and certainly not to handmade cigars, because it lacks the ability to do so [given current and future budget constraints].

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

4. FDA regulations on premium cigars will cost jobs, both domestically and abroad. (Avoiding unemployment is almost universally considered good for your health. For example, experts have found ( that “people who are unemployed: have poorer physical and mental health overall, consult their [primary physician] more, are more likely to be admitted to hospital, [and] have higher death rates.”)

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

Subjects one, two, four, and five demonstrate why the FDA’s mission of public health, with a special focus on the prevention of tobacco use by minors, should exempt handmade cigars so the focus can be on cigarettes and other tobacco products that fulfill the FDA’s above-stated goals.

We further emphasize the third key point made in our 2016 comments regarding a potential definition used for premium or handmade cigars: If the FDA decides to exempt “premium” cigars, it should do so based on the artisanal techniques used to produce handmade cigars. If, however, the FDA insists on using product cost to draw such a line, it should rely on the only line drawn by Congress which limited SCHIP tax rates to the first 40.26 cents of the wholesale price per cigar (i.e., cigars with a wholesale price above 40.26 cents should be exempt and classified as premium cigars).

Regulation of Handmade Cigars Won’t Advance the FDA’s Stated Goals

If the FDA is devoted to deploying its resources to pursue an agenda of harm reduction, this militates against regulating handmade cigars. The undeniable truth is virtually every human activity—including choices about diet, exercise, healthcare, social relationships, etc.—comes with some health risk. The FDA has recently moved towards a focus on risk-reduction, whereby regulatory activity is judged by its net effects, taking into account that regulation can and will steer individuals towards other, more or less risky, activities. Decreased regulation of handmade cigars logically follows from these stated goals.

Those who have read the National Institute of Health’s “Monograph 9: Cigars: Health Effects and Trends” and overviews of the health impacts of cigarette use will conclude that if the average cigarette smoker were suddenly transformed into the average handmade cigar smoker, public health would be far better off. Cigar smokers tend to smoke far less frequently and are therefore are far more capable of quitting, should they decide to.

The Regulation of Handmade Cigars Will Be Unwieldy

While handmade cigars are made in what is called a “cigar factory,” ultimately compared to most modern standardized manufacturing practices, the very nature of handmade cigars is far less precise than other more mass-market tobacco products. In fact, it is fair to say that the basic cigar manufacturing process has evolved little in decades, or perhaps even centuries.

Cigars are made with very broad specifications, which leaves significant discretion to each cigar roller to produce a final cigar that bares the key characteristics of the blend but is ultimately tweaked slightly to produce a cigar that will still combust and taste as expected by the consumer. The fact is, each cigar leaf is not identical in size, nor can each tobacco be produced uniformly because each frequently comes from a different farm (and part of that farm), a different growing season, and had been hand-processed by a different person.

In other words, no two handmade cigars are ever identical. This makes any attempt to regulate cigars through an FDA pre-approval process inherently unwieldy and unworkable.

The FDA’s Limited Resources Should Be Focused On More Consequential Tasks

Perhaps most critically, the FDA should exempt handmade cigars. Given existing fiscal realities, FDA regulation of handmade cigars would mean less regulatory resources elsewhere. If the FDA had infinite resources to regulate all tobacco products, the correct question to ask would be: Can regulation of handmade cigars create any net health benefit? But even if it could, that is not the reality the FDA faces today, or will ever face.

In a world of growing deficits, increasing financial obligations from entitlement spending, and little appetite for large tax increases, the FDA must accept it is increasingly being asked to do more with less, or at the very least more with the same resources, especially considering its existing large portfolio of non-tobacco regulatory mandates. In that light, the real question the FDA should ask as it considers whether to undertake the regulation of handmade cigars is: Will regulation of handmade cigars, to the detriment of other FDA regulatory activities, create a net gain in public health or risk reduction?

When judged against the potential impact of deploying FDA resources elsewhere, the considerable resources that would need to be devoted to any regulation of handmade cigars (which overwhelmingly produced in jurisdictions outside the United States) cannot be justified. Studies do not show that handmade cigars are used in any meaningful amounts by minors, and in fact even the previous FDA-cited justifications conflated handmade cigar use with use of non-handmade cigars, and also repeatedly conflated tobacco use by adults as old as 25 or even 29 with those of minors (see:, almost certainly because of the lack of evidence that studies show that actual minors are using handmade cigars. Whether the FDA chooses to focus on public health overall or tobacco use by minors, regulation of handmade cigars does not serve that goal when compared to using the same taxpayer dollars elsewhere.

Finally, while we believe current overwhelming evidence should cause the FDA to leave handmade cigars out of its tobacco regulation regime, such a decision would not preclude the FDA from, should new evidence be produced or documented use patterns change, revisiting the issue at later date. Barring an act of Congress specifically exempting handmade cigars (there has been, and continues to be, wide bipartisan support for such an exemption), the FDA will still retain such regulatory powers to be deployed later under the Tobacco Control Act.

When it comes to the many tasks given to the FDA by Congress, whether for tobacco regulations or other public health goals, regulating the small percentage of tobacco products that constitute handmade cigars at this time cannot advance the FDA’s larger goals of risk reduction and overall public health compared to deploying the FDA’s limited resources elsewhere. Therefore, we ask the FDA to eliminate its current regulations of handmade cigars.

–Patrick A & Patrick S

photo credits: Stogie Guys

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: IPCPR Gets Fired Up, Japan Passes First National Smoking Law, New Cigars from CAO and Hoyo, and More

20 Jul 2018

As we have since July 2006, each Friday we’ll post our sampling of cigar news and other items of interest from the week. Below is our latest, which is the 588th in the series.

1) The International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR) 86th Annual Convention & International Trade Show, held at the Las Vegas Convention Center, wrapped up on Tuesday. The event, which featured the debut of hundreds of new cigars and cigar-related accessories to over 5,000 attendees (up 3% over 2017), was interrupted by an electrical fire on Sunday morning as a sprinkler system kicked on and impacted the booths of 14 exhibitors. There were no injuries. The trade show floor was scheduled to be open that day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. but, because of the fire, it remained closed until 1 p.m. (and stayed open two hours later). Ironically, the tagline for the event this year was “Get Fired Up.” The 2019 and 2020 IPCPR Trade Shows will take place at the Sands Expo at the Venetian in Las Vegas. The Sands Expo last hosted the event in 2016 and had been considered the de facto IPCPR home for a decade. In the past, other host cities have included New Orleans and Orlando.

2) “Japan on Wednesday approved its first national smoking ban inside public facilities, but the watered-down measure excludes many restaurants and bars and is seen as toothless,” reports the Los Angeles Times. “Japan often has been called a smokers’ paradise. Until now it has had no binding law controlling secondhand smoke… The new national law bans indoor smoking at schools, hospitals and government offices. Smoking will be allowed at existing small eateries, including those with less than 1,076 square feet of customer space, which includes more than half of Japanese establishments.” Patrick A visited Japan a decade ago and wrote about his experience here.

3) CAO this week debuted CAO Nicaragua. While the blend actually uses Honduran Jamastran wrapper and binder leaves, the filler is 100% Nicaraguan with a combination of tobaccos from the country’s three primary growing regions. The blend comes in three sizes (Robusto, Corona, and Toro) all retailing for under $7 per cigar.

4) Hoyo de Monterrey and A.J. Fernandez continue their collaboration with Hoyo La Amistad Black. The third A.J.-made Hoyo uses an Ecuadoran Sumatra Oscuro wrapper, Mexican binder, and Nicaraguan Habano filler leaves. It comes in three sizes: Rothschild (4.5 x 50, $7.29) Toro (6.5 x 52, $8.09), and a box-pressed Gigante (6 x 60, $8.49).

5) Colibri is celebrating its past and present with a 90th Anniversary Set that includes engraved “London 1928” and “New York 2018” custom artwork on both sides of the V-Cut and Rally cutters. The cutters will sell for a suggested retail of $128 for the set, or $59 for the V-Cut and $69 for the Rally.

6) From the Archives: Back in 2013, IPCPR proposed a consumer day at the Trade Show that traditionally has been exclusively for the cigar industry, not consumers. No such consumer day ever actually occurred.

7) Deal of the Week: recommends Bespoke Post, a monthly collection of awesome items (think fine bar accessories, shaving kits, workout gear, and more) delivered for just $45. Of note is the Churchill box, which features four exclusive cigars, an ashtray made of reclaimed wood, an odor-eating candle, cedar spills, and a cutter. Once you are signed up, there is no obligation; you can skip or purchase each month. Sign up now to be eligible for the August box.

–The Stogie Guys

photo credit: IPCPR / General Cigar / Colibri

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: IPCPR Trade Show Starts Today, Many New Cigars Announced, and More

13 Jul 2018

As we have since July 2006, each Friday we’ll post our sampling of cigar news and other items of interest from the week. Below is our latest, which is the 587th in the series.

1) The International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR) 86th Annual Convention & International Trade Show begins today at the Las Vegas Convention Center. As you know, this premier, members-only event is where most of this year’s new cigars (and cigar-related accessories) will debut. Exhibitors will spend tens of thousands of dollars to lure retailers to their booths with the hopes of securing orders to stock a local humidor near you. In the coming weeks and months, will be reporting on and reviewing many new cigars to help you make educated choices. A friendly reminder, however: You don’t have to get caught up in the new-release treadmill—especially since lots of older brands will be on sale as retailers look to clear inventory space for new products. In this way, the savvy cigar consumer can take advantage of some great deals on perfectly good cigars that have nothing wrong with them (other than they’re not currently being hyped).

2) This week, leading up to the IPCPR Trade Show, many cigar makers issued press releases proclaiming their latest and greatest. If its media blitz is any indication, Drew Estate plans to make a big splash at the convention. First, the Herrera Estelí brand is expanding and getting a facelift. The Herrera Estelí Brazilian Maduro and Herrera Estelí Miami are launching, each with five sizes. And the existing Herrera Estelí Habano and Herrera Estelí Norteño will be re-branded to make the entire portfolio consistent. “The uniform packaging… has elements of classic Cuban-inspired branding mixed with modern simplicity,” says Master Blender Willy Herrera. Drew Estate is also expected to unveil three smaller vitolas for Liga Privada No. 9 and T52—Corona Viva, Short Panatela, and Petit Corona—plus the Unico Serie Nasty Fritas. “The Nasty Fritas utilizes a Connecticut Broadleaf Oscuro wrapper and a plantation-grown Brazilian Mata Fina binder over Nicaraguan and Honduran fillers,” reads a press release. “Like the Papas Fritas, the Nasty Fritas filler tobacco incorporates leftover tobacco leaves that are short cut through the manufacture of Liga Privada No. 9 and Liga Privada T52 cigars.” Finally, and perhaps most notably, Drew Estate announced Liga Privada H99 Connecticut Corojo, a toro that will retail for $343.92 per box of 24 (additional sizes are planned for future releases). UPDATE: More news from Drew Estate via press release dated today — “Drew Estate announces today Liga Privada 10-Year Aniversario, a cigar that we spared no expense in creating to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of Liga Privada… Packaged in ten-count boxes featuring a unique Cola de Pescado head, and Pies Tapado foot, the Liga Privada 10-Year Aniversario Toro is available with an MSRP of $179.00 per box.”

3) Nicaragua-based Antigua Estelí is introducing the Antigua Estelí Segovias, with the cigar set to arrive at retailers in September. The Nicaraguan puro comes with two different wrappers: Nicaraguan Maduro and Habano Oscuro. The blend, which is described as medium- to full-bodied, retails for between $8.99 and $13.99 per cigar.

4) General Cigar is preparing to release Punch Diablo, a new addition to the Punch line billed as “the dark side of Punch.” A video about the cigar reveals it is made by A.J. Fernandez with an Oscuro Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper, Connecticut Broadleaf binder, and fillers from Nicaragua and Honduras, including Habano Ligero aged 4-6 years. Three sizes will sell for $7.19 to $8.19 per cigar.

5) Tamboril, Dominican Republic-based El Artista announced the new Cimarron line, consisting of three blends (two for the U.S. and one for the European market). The U.S. blend uses a Mexican wrapper. The binder is Dominican Negrito from El Artista’s Tamboril farms.

6) Inside the Industry: Villiger is set to add a Gordo (6 x 60) size to its Villiger La Vencedora blend. Crux announced the hiring of Roy MacLaren as executive vice president of sales. Quesada announced the revamped Fonseca Classic, a Connecticut Shade-wrapped Dominican line continually produced since 1974.

7) From the Archives: In 2008, covered the IPCPR Trade Show live for the first time. Revisit our coverage here, here, and here.

8) Deal of the Week: Here are over 80 deals, including cigars from Ashton, Oliva, Tatuaje, Rocky Patel, Padrón, Drew Estate, Davidoff, My Father, Oliva, and more. Free shipping is included on most purchases. Add promo code “ULYXMAS” at checkout to knock $30 off your order of $150 or more.

–The Stogie Guys

photo credit: LVCVA / Drew Estate / Antigua Estelí

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: Judge Delays FDA Warning Labels, Texas Challenge to FDA Transferred, New Joya Silver, and More

6 Jul 2018

As we have since July 2006, each Friday we’ll post our sampling of cigar news and other items of interest from the week. Below is our latest, which is the 586th in the series.

1) Yesterday, D.C. District Court Judge Amit Mehta issued an injunction prohibiting the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) from enforcing its warning label requirements on cigars and pipe tobacco. The warning label requirements for packaging and advertising were slated to take effect on August 10, but Judge Mehta’s order delays any enforcement of the requirement until at least 60 days after the conclusion of the appeal currently underway. Currently, no date has been set for a court to hear the appeal. The decision comes as part of an ongoing lawsuit brought by the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR), the Cigar Association of America, and the Cigar Rights of America. Scott Pearce, IPCPR executive director, recognizes this is a positive, albeit potentially temporary, development for retailers and the broader industry. “This deadline has been bearing down on our members for some time now. And while this is a temporary reprieve, it is a welcome development and hopefully a sign that our message is resonating.”

2) In contrast to this positive legal development, a legal challenge to FDA regulation filed in Texas had a setback this week. Fifth Circuit District Court Judge Kimberly Priest Johnson reversed an earlier ruling and granted the FDA’s request that the legal challenge be merged with the ongoing lawsuit in the DC Circuit. The ruling denies the cigar industry a separate, potentially more favorable, venue in which to challenge FDA cigar rules.

3) You may have heard that 17 U.S. senators of both parties wrote a letter to the FDA to “respectfully request that the FDA exempt premium cigars from the FDA’s regulations” under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009. The letter cites research showing “no statistically significant use of traditional cigars amongst youth” and says further regulation could kill small businesses. While it’s good to see officials move in this direction, it’s also probably not something to get overly excited about. All 17 signers—spanning the ideological spectrum from Hawaii’s Mazie Hirono to Georgia’s David Perdue—already cosponsor a bill to do the same thing. Neither that bill nor similar legislation has gained much traction in the past.

4) We’re going to go ahead and make a prediction that the bourbon in this collapsed warehouse will someday end up in a limited edition bourbon, probably for a premium price. Don’t say we didn’t tell you so.

5) Random Read: Here are 15 films perfect for celebrating America.

6) Inside the Industry: This week, Joya de Nicaragua announced the national release of Joya Silver, an addition to its Modern Lineup. Joya Silver is a box-pressed cigar featuring an oscuro upper-priming Ecuador-grown wrapper around Nicaraguan fillers and a Mexican binder. The result is a medium- to full-bodied smoke that achieves an indulging matching of flavors.

7) From the Archives: An interview with the Indiana Jones of cigars, whose job it is to discover the next great cigar tobacco.

8) Deal of the Week: Here are over 80 deals, including cigars from Ashton, Oliva, Tatuaje, Rocky Patel, Padrón, Drew Estate, Davidoff, Cohiba, Crowned Heads, RoMa Craft, and more. Free shipping is included on any purchase. If you really want to stock up, add promo code “GBP20D” at checkout to knock $20 off an order of $150 or more.

–The Stogie Guys

photo credit: IPCPR

Happy Fourth of July!

4 Jul 2018


All of us at would like to wish you a very happy Independence Day. America’s 242nd birthday is a wonderful occasion to spend time with friends and family. So we’ve decided to take our own advice and barbecue, see some fireworks, and smoke more than our share of celebratory cigars. Have a safe, relaxing holiday.

The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Flickr

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: UPS Strike Averted, Bombay Tobak MQBA, Yellow Jacket by BLK WKS, and More

29 Jun 2018

As we have since July 2006, each Friday we’ll post our sampling of cigar news and other items of interest from the week. Below is our latest, which is the 585th in the series.

1) While you may soon have to pay sales tax on your online cigar purchases, at least it appears you’ll be able to get them. Teamsters are expected to approve an agreement, effective Aug. 1, to keep the brown trucks rolling and add weekend deliveries. UPS and the U.S. Postal Service are the primary cigar delivery operations to consumers. FedEx limits tobacco deliveries to licensed companies.

2) While the annual IPCPR Trade Show always features numerous new releases, some stand out. That’s the case for Bombay Tobak’s MQBA, a regular-production, four-vitola line to be introduced at the Las Vegas event in July. MQBA is the first cigar blended using only tobacco grown on Bombay Tobak’s farm in Ecuador. MSRPs ranges from $12 to $16.60; the boxes will be 24-count. MQBA, by the way, is pronounced em kyoo bha.

3) Random Read: The top ten “BattleBots” videos to watch on YouTube.

4) Inside the Industry: Black Works Studio (BLK WKS) announced the release of Yellow Jacket, handcrafted at the company’s Fabrica Oveja Negra factory in Nicaragua. According to BLK WKS creator James Brown, the cigar “may not be what you expect from a typical Connecticut cigar. The Connecticut wrapper gives an added creaminess and changes up the spice components quite a bit. Yellow Jacket is very complex and balanced.” The cigar uses dual wrappers, Connecticut and Ecuador Maduro, with binder and filler tobaccos from Nicaragua. Notably, it has a swirl cap and closed foot. The petite corona (4.5 x 46)  comes in 20-count boxes with an MSRP of $10.00 per cigar.

5) From the Archives: Five good bourbons for under $30.

6) Deal of the Week: recommends Bespoke Post, a monthly collection of awesome items (think fine bar accessories, shaving kits, workout gear, and more) delivered for just $45. Of note is the Churchill box, which features four exclusive cigars, an ashtray made of reclaimed wood, an odor-eating candle, cedar spills, and a cutter. Once you are signed up, there is no obligation; you can skip or purchase each month. Sign up now to be eligible for the July box.

–The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Wikimedia

Weekly Cigar News Sampler: Court Ruling Could End Tax-Free Online Sales, Nat Sherman Gets a Facelift, BLTC Announces Sindustry, and More

22 Jun 2018

As we have since July 2006, each Friday we’ll post our sampling of cigar news and other items of interest from the week. Below is our latest, which is the 584th in the series.

1) In a 5-4 decision yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court granted states the authority to require online retailers to collect sales taxes—a major shift in policy that could provide a boost to brick-and-mortar cigar retailers and eliminate internet and catalog tax-free shopping options for cigar consumers. “States have said that they are missing out on tens of billions of dollars in annual revenue under a 1992 Supreme Court ruling that helped spur the rise of internet shopping,” reports the New York Times. “On Thursday, the court overruled that ruling, Quill Corporation v. North Dakota, which had said that the Constitution bars states from requiring businesses to collect sales taxes unless they have a substantial connection to the state.”

2) Nat Sherman has unveiled a new strategy for branding and packaging. While the blends themselves will remain unchanged, the New Jersey-based company’s premium cigars will be organized into three categories—Metropolitan, Timeless, and Epoca—and all will receive a facelift. Metropolitan will include the current Metropolitan Connecticut, Maduro, and Habano lines; Timeless (pictured above) will include Prestige (formerly Timeless Dominican), Supreme (formerly Timeless Nicaraguan), Sterling, and Panamericana; and Epoca, an old brand that was reintroduced in 2014, will continue to stand alone. “This realignment of our cigar brands offers a clearer picture of how our collection of products fits together,” said Michael Herklots, vice president of retail and brand development. The new packaging will debut at the 2018 IPCPR Trade Show in Las Vegas next month.

3) Black Label Trading Company (BLTC) has announced the second annual release of Sindustry, a San Andrés-wrapped cigar made at the company’s Fabrica Oveja Negra factory in Estelí. Three sizes—Robusto, Toro, and Lancero—will sell in the $10-$10.50 range. “This vintage of Sindustry is the perfect balance between strength and flavor,” said BLTC creator James Brown. “Sindustry is one of my personal favorite cigars, and I’m very excited about this release hitting retailers.” BLTC also this week announced Ligero Hawaii, a single-vitola, Pennsylvania Broadleaf-wrapped cigar that will be exclusive to R. Field Wine Co. in Honolulu starting on July 6.

4) Random Read: Bob Dylan has a line of whiskey, and it might actually be pretty good.

5) Inside the Industry: Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust (DTT) formally announced the debut of the long-anticipated Sin Compromiso, a “series of ultra-premium handmade cigars” set to be released in August. According to DTT founder Steve Saka, “Sin Compromiso is the result of over three years of experimental black tobacco harvests in Mexico, Ecuador, and Nicaragua, and the culmination of my experiences as a cigar blender. The marquee’s name translates to ‘no compromise,’ and that is the exact approach I took when creating this cigar.” The line will debut in five sizes: Selección No. 2 Torpedo (6 x 52), Selección No. 5 Parejo (6 x 54), Selección No. 7 Parejo (7 x 56), Selección Intrépido (5.63 x 46), and Selección Espada Estoque (7 x 44). The soft-pressed, sleeved in Spanish cedar cigars will retail in the $15.95-$18.45 range and are packed in 13-count matte lacquered boxes.

6) From the Archives: The FDA is reconsidering its regulation of cigars (more on that soon), which makes this article on studies about the health effects of cigars particularly important.

7) Deal of the Week: recommends Bespoke Post, a monthly collection of awesome items (think fine bar accessories, shaving kits, workout gear, and more) delivered for just $45. Of note is the Churchill box, which features four exclusive cigars, an ashtray made of reclaimed wood, an odor-eating candle, cedar spills, and a cutter. Once you are signed up, there is no obligation; you can skip or purchase each month. Sign up now to be eligible for the July box.

–The Stogie Guys

photo credit: Flickr / Nat Sherman / Facebook