Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani is well known for his love of cigars. Following his friend Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 Presidential election, there was talk of Giuliani being up for a Cabinet post in the Trump Administration. Given Giuliani’s ties to Trump and potentially having an influential role in the Administration came the buzz that Giuliani would be the cigar industry’s white knight – and that he would lead the charge to help the cigar industry get out from regulations set forth by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. While Giuliani did not get a Cabinet post, this idea of Giuliani “saving the cigar industry” was in this author’s opinion (who is a Giuliani fan) – something that was never going to happen.
Back on November 8th, 2016, “America’s Mayor” Rudolph “Rudy” Giuliani made an appearance on Fox News during the early part of the U.S. Presidential election night coverage. During his appearance, Giuliani was assessing some the of the results around the State of Florida. He had stated that Republican candidate Donald Trump was going to win Florida and there were certain neighborhoods indicative of this. One neighborhood was Little Havana and it was the comments around Little Havana that set the cigar industry into a frenzy.
“I know the Cuban Community in Little Havana and I happen to spend a lot of time there; for a total irrelevant reason – the fact that I love cigars. I know all those families very well, the Padron family, Don Pepin Garcia. They’re big Trump supporters.”
Everyone (including this author) in the cigar industry got very excited about these statements being made on national television – after all, it isn’t everyday the cigar industry gets national press from mainstream media. Once Trump secured the presidency, this excitement took on a whole new life. With Trump and Giuliani supposedly being close; and Giuliani being considered for the Cabinet, came the assumption that Giuliani was going to help the cigar industry. This assumption was based on the premise that he was going to explain to Donald Trump about the draconian regulations imposed on the cigar industry by the FDA. Many felt, it was going to be that easy. Well not quite.
Analyzing Giuliani’s Remarks on the Fox News Election Night Appearance
First we need to analyze what Giuliani said. Giuliani said he loves cigars – which he does. He also said he knows a lot of families in the cigar industry – which he also does. If you look at manufacturers and retailers social media feeds, you will often see photo opportunities with Giuliani. He has been known to frequent and smoke in cigar shops and even stop at the offices of cigar companies. In fact, this author had an impromptu encounter with him back in 2011 at Up in Smoke in Dallas, Texas.
Giuliani might love cigars and have a lot of friends in the industry; but he never said anything about helping the industry, nor explained that night on Fox that the industry needed help. During his time on Fox, he could have just said something as simple as “government regulations are crippling the cigar industry” on national television. The opportunity was there and would have taken seconds to say it. He didn’t do it.
The New York City Smoking Ban of 1995
On January 10th, 1995, as Mayor of New York City, Giuliani signed the Smoke-Free Air Act into law. This was a law that implemented further smoking restrictions on restaurants and workplaces. For the first time, outdoor areas like parks and stadiums. With this law, restaurants seating 35 or more people would be prohibited from smoking (down from 50). It forced businesses to implement separately ventilated rooms to allow smoking.
Giuliani signed the law despite businesses pleading with him not to do so – and justified his actions. A New York Times article quoted him as saying “This is where the rest of America is going. New York City is going to get there a little bit slower than others and a little bit faster than others.”
This also opened the door for subsequent more restrictive smoking bans that were implemented under Giuliani’s successor, Michael Bloomberg.
While some can say cigarettes were targeted here, smoking restrictions still hurt the cigar industry. Cigars are more of a recreational smoking activity and ultimately if it is harder to smoke a cigar, it can lead to less sales. The bottom line is that the cigar industry didn’t get any help from him here. One thing is for certain, Giuliani can’t get any points here for signing this bill.
Where were you Rudy Giuliani the past eight years?
The cigar industry has faced two great challenges in the past eight years. On both of these challenges Giuliani’s actions have pretty much been non-existent. One can assume with all of his appearances in cigar shops and cigar company offices that these topics would have been front and center.
In 2009, the SCHIP tax threatened to put a $10.00 cap per cigar and threatened to cripple the industry. Eventually it was settled on $0.40 per cigar. As for Giuliani and SCHIP, he pretty much was radio silent. Did he ever speak up on behalf of the cigar consumers and call / point out the crippling effect this tax would have? Did he do anything behind the scenes to help support getting the tax reduced? I believe the answer to both of these are “no”.
In 2009, the Family Tobacco and Smoking Act gave the FDA power to regulate premium cigars. Again, where was Rudy Giuliani while all of this was going on? He hasn’t made many public statements and if any actions were taken, they are not on the record.
The Unrealistic Cabinet Scenario
The relationship between Giuliani and Trump has been painted as a close one. Following Trump’s victory, Giuliani’s name surfaced for a position in the Trump cabinet. Many were hoping for a scenario where “Giuliani would put in a good word and talk to Trump about the injustices the FDA has made against the cigar industry and ultimately ‘help us'”. The bottom line is even if Giuliani had received a Cabinet appointment, this probably wasn’t going to be a realistic scenario that would help the cigar industry.
The Cabinet positions that Giuliani was supposedly in play for were Secretary of State or Attorney General. If Giuliani were to have filled one of these positions, premium cigars would have most likely not been very on his agenda for things such as the State department of Attorney General’s office.
The one Cabinet post where the FDA falls under would be Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). By all reports, Giuliani was never in play for the HHS cabinet post. Ultimately Congressman Tom Price of Georgia was nominated for that position. Regardless of who gets the HHS job, the repeal of Obamacare is expected to be at the top of the Secretary of Health and Human Services agenda with FDA regulation much further down the food chain.
Giuliani in the Private Sector
Many have continued to beat the drum stating that even though Giuliani would not be in the Trump cabinet, that “he would continue to advocate for the cigar industry’s cause”.
When Giuliani withdrew from consideration for being on Trump’s Cabinet, he made the following statement:
“From the vantage point of the private sector, I look forward to helping the president-elect in any way he deems necessary and appropriate.”
Giuliani isn’t going to be calling the President pleading with him to save the FDA. And on the flip-side, it is most like the President will call Giuliani saying “advise me on what to do about the FDA and cigars”. If anyone advises Trump on the FDA, it will be Tom Price.
It’s also doubtful Cigar Rights of America or the International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers will get support from Giuliani either. If he does (and I believe its a long-shot), it’s probably going to come at a cost for his services and not something that will be a “freebee” from Giuliani.
One thing I’ve learned is that there have been politicians who quietly have tried the help the industry behind the scenes. For political reasons, these actions don’t often get mentioned. Whether Rudy Giuliani has been one of those people, we just don’t know. In this author’s eyes, you can’t give points to someone who hasn’t shown his scorecard to the public – and more importantly you can’t put your faith into someone without a proven track record.
One disclaimer. I do admire Rudy Giuliani. In spite of some of these shortcomings, I would have loved to see him hold public office beyond his days as Mayor. That feeling still holds true today.
It’s also been pointed out to me that it’s important to still keep as many friends on the cigar industry’s side as possible. I’m not questioning that Giuliani has been kind to the cigar industry. I’m just questioning the track record he has had and feel this doesn’t translate into him being a crusader on the cigar industry’s behalf.
Do I think Rudy Giuliani has an interest in seeing the cigar industry be successful? Probably, as we do know he is a passionate cigar smoker. That is one thing that came out on the Fox News segment on election day. However, does Rudy Giuliani have a sense of commitment to help the cigar industry? I feel the answer is “no” – and that’s why he is not the person the cigar industry should be banking on to be the white knight against the FDA. If somehow Giuliani’s public commitment to help the cigar industry is out there, I ask he come forward and tell us what the plan is going forward.
Photo Credit: Public Domain