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Tampa’s Last Cigar Factory Celebrates Temporary Stop To Labeling Rules

Lottie Watts
WUSF Public Media
Tampa’s Last Cigar Factory Celebrates Temporary Stop To Labeling Rules";

J.C. Newman Cigar Company, Tampa’s last operating cigar factory, is celebrating a federal court ruling that temporarily pauses the push for larger health warnings to be printed on premium cigar boxes.

The Food and Drug Administration is trying to have the labeling requirements in effect by Aug. 10. The FDA states that the labels are necessary to protect public health.

However, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia granted the Cigar Association of America’s request to postpone the effective date.

The court still needs to set a date to hear an appeal from the Association. If the FDA’s regulations hold up, companies will have 60 days to comply with the new labeling rules.

Newman is America’s oldest family-owned premium cigar maker.

“This will cost us, cost the industry millions of dollars, to redesign all their packaging, and their labels,”
said Eric Newman, the president of the company. “This is all for naught.”

“We’ve unfortunately become the perfect poster child of how overregulation gone wild can put small business out of business,” said Newman.

One of the new regulations will require warning statements to take up at least 30 percent of the front and inside packaging labels. Newman said that the labels are made in Holland, and it will be difficult to redesign and repackage.

“Ever see our cigar labels? They’re like works of art,” said Newman. “And it’s part of an expression of our family, expression of our products, it’s expression of who we are.”

In addition, any such changes will be extremely expensive. Newman said that it costs as much as $22,000 to design a new box label. The 123-year-old company has over 600 different products that would be affected.

The larger warning labels are a part of the FDA’s 2016 Deeming Rule that extends regulations to include premium cigars under the Tobacco Control Act.

The J.C. Newman Cigar has received support from some state officials.

In 2014, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi wrote a letter asking the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to consider the impact that linking cigars to the same rules as the cigarette industry would have on the company.

The FDA is extending the deadline for public commentary submissions about tobacco regulation issues until July 25.

J.C. Newman has created an online campaign website, savecigarcity.com, so people can submit comments to the FDA.

“We are hopeful, when FDA looks at all the evidence on why premium cigars should not be regulated that they will decide, yes indeed we should not be regulated and then these health warnings won’t be necessary,” said Newman.

Nada Blassy is a WUSF/USF Zimmerman School digital news intern for summer 2018.
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