It never fails. As I embark on travel, complete chaos seems to reign supreme in the cigar industry. Just when I thought a new level of chaos was reached with two cigar companies getting acquired in one day – along comes the week of March 18th to top it all. With this particular week, it was the realization of the constant battle cigar enthusiasts are facing to simply enjoy the product they love. It was a little of the glass half-full, the glass half-empty, forces of anti-tobacco against us, and forces having nothing to do with premium cigars.
- My week started out on Sunday, March 18th learning the Laguna Champagne Bar at the Palazzo in Las Vegas, the main after-hours social and smoking destination for the IPCPR Trade Show, had closed down. While not directly a victim of anti-tobacco forces, it was the by-product of a massive renovation. As for where the smokers will go, that’s anyone’s guess.
- On Monday, March 19th was Rocky Patel’s historic segment on Tucker Carlson Tonight. While he only had four minutes, he was able to bring the case of the cigar industry’s battle against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to an audience of three million viewers. Patel’s segment was heralded throughout the cigar industry.
- On Tuesday, March 20th, Flavored Tobacco enthusiasts got reminded that the FDA is very much aiming for them as an Advanced Notice of Public Rule Making (ANPRM) was issued. While on the surface it might seem like it’s aiming at cigarettes and e-cigarettes, premium cigars are very much of a part of the equation.
- Wednesday was perhaps the most bizarre day of all. It started with word that cigar transactions (paid and unpaid) were being banned on the popular content sharing and social media platform Reddit. This was lumped into a bunch of sweeping changes made regarding Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. This seems to be a knee-jerk reaction to the Austin bombing, but nonetheless, tobacco was lumped into it.
- Also on Wednesday, we learned that a New York City Councilman is actually proposing a pedestrian smoking ban on New York City streets. It was a reminder of just how far anti-tobacco will go. New York City was one of the first to pass a sweeping outdoor smoking ban. It was one of the first major municipalities to raise the smoking age to 21. As crazy as a pedestrian smoking ban sounds, it is something people are taking very seriously.
- Later on Wednesday, came word that the cigar exemption and grandfather date change did not make it on to the Omnibus Spending Bill. These changes would have prevented many of the regulations the FDA has imposed from being funded for the 2018 Fiscal Year. It was a reminder that the cigar industry has more work to do.
- Finally, on Friday came news of the ANPRM around the how or if premium cigars should be regulated. This kicks off the official process of the FDA re-evaluating its approach for regulating premium cigars. While two years ago, many wondered if this opportunity would ever arise, it is also another reminder of more work to do.
No doubt, this was a rollercoaster week in the cigar industry, and lots more to follow.