TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera on Wednesday dashed off a missive in defense of Tampa’s last large-scale cigar factory.
Their letter to U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg asks her to cut a break to cigar manufacturers like Tampa’s J.C. Newman Cigar Co. from new federal regulation.
The federal government is considering exempting cigars from tighter regulation of tobacco products.
Its definition of “premium cigars,” however, has stoked debate — hand-rolled, all-tobacco cigars that cost $10 or more each.
Newman produces some cigars that fit that description but also puts out many machine-made cigars that cost far less.
The company slapped a banner on the clock tower of its Ybor City factory asking for the public’s support of taking cigars out of any new regulations.
Tampa earned the nickname “Cigar City” for once having as many as 150 cigar factories. Newman, which Scott and Lopez-Cantera say is “threatened for extinction,” has been in the city since 1954.
“From its immigrant roots to its international success, the story of the family-owned J.C. Newman is a living example of the American Dream,” they wrote. “To require these companies to charge $10 for a premium cigar would unnecessarily inhibit future sales. Making matters worse, these artificial price floors only apply to small, family-owned businesses while big tobacco companies are unaffected.
“In addition, requiring FDA approval for each new size, shape or brand would require upwards of 5,000 hours of testing at the company’s expense — a massive burden for a company like J.C. Newman,” the letter went on, “which simply does not have the financial bandwidth of national cigarette companies that have long incorporated these kinds of requirements into their bottom line.”
Scott and Lopez-Cantera called Newman Cigar Co. “one of America’s historic treasures.”
“Therefore, we are urging you ... to exclude premium cigar companies like J.C. Newman from these onerous regulations,” they wrote. “We hope that this local, family-owned business will be allowed the opportunity to compete on a fair playing field.”
Newman is known for its Cuesta-Rey, Brick House and Diamond Crown cigars.