President Obama's decision to open the U.S. market to Cuban cigars could impact Tampa. Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio toured the city's sole remaining cigar manufacturer, J.C. Newman Cigar Co., and he has more than the island nation in his sights.
He also took aim at new U.S. regulations. Those include government approval of new cigar blends and requiring larger warning labels on cigar boxes. Rubio says that's something the Cubans won't have to do.
"And they don't have to go through any of these requirements - none," he said. "So we have basically made our own native industry uncompetitive. It's outrageous. These people are going to lose jobs over the next couple of years. It's an industry that's culturally and historically tied to the Tampa Bay region. To Florida."
Rubio says the president's move will only empower the island nation.
"On the same week that the president opened up the floodgates to all these Cuban products to be sold in the United States, meaning more money in the hands of that dictatorship," he said, "the Cuban government opening invited the Russians to open a military base on the island of Cuba - 90 miles from our shores - which would be the first time in 25-30 years that they have a vibrant military presence in our hemisphere."
Rubio says a standalone bill introduced in both the U.S. Senate and House that would exempt the "premium cigar" industry from those guidelines didn't pass last session. He says it might be added to a broader piece of legislation at the end of the year - possibly the bill authorizing funding of the federal government.