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  • Writer's pictureBen Balliro

A Glance at Our Puffing Past

Updated: Apr 14

The cigar industry has taken a long and arduous stroll since the big cigar boom of the 1990’s, but it has been an exciting journey of trials and tribulations, feast and famine, through heartbreak and loss, and recovery. In the end, the premium cigar industry remains steadfast in its endeavor to provide consumers with access to those exquisite byproducts of artisanal horticulture, the premium cigar.

In the 90’s many investors and business owners were concerned about whether the premium cigar was going to be a fad. Fading away like JNCO Jeans, Fanny Packs, Oxygen bars and the Macarena. The 90’s society was doing pretty well and premium tobacco shops were popping up all over the U.S. Over time this sudden “fad” grew along with the publication of reputable premium tobacco magazines such as Cigar Aficionado and helped give rise to the term “90’s cigar boom”. This premium tobacco expansion primarily came as a result of rapid economic growth in tandem with the absence of anti-smoking regulations. For example, you were allowed to smoke in most restaurants. Remember when you went inside to give your name to the hostess and asked you “smoking or non smoking please?”.

The problem was the smoke didn’t exactly know where the boundaries were, and would still travel across the dining room floor to the “non smoking” section, but still it was an option nonetheless. You could smoke outdoors, at hotel bars, beaches, rooftop bars, balconies, and a host of other locations.

That all changed in 2016 when the FDA decided to crack down on all tobacco products with one sweeping motion. This caused irreparable damage to the premium cigar industry and caused major setbacks with cigar production. They imposed many statutes including a rule called Substantial Equivalence; forcing premium cigar makers to prove the tobacco products they make today, are substantially equivalent to the tobacco made before Feb 2007. These farmers, are not in the business of keeping excel spreadsheets and PDF Files on all the tobacco they harvest and from which farm and which stalk in what barn so forth and so on. These farmers are artisanal horticulturists and multigenerational families where skills and wisdom are passed down the bloodline.

The courts knew this and used an obscure predicate date that would make it difficult to make them “prove” that the tobacco is similar from before 2007. The truth is tobacco has been harvested in a congruent way for hundreds of years, but that wasn’t the governments point. The government overreach caused a planet sized headache for the tobacco industry, even if the cigar industry does not target underage youth, they get lumped in with other products that in fact do attract underage youth.

Cigar Aficionado published in a recent article a decision from Judge Mehta voted in favor of the cigar industry, claiming the cigar industry still prevailed, adapted to changes, made exceptions, and hired a slew of lawyers to make sure the industry was abiding by the rules as best they can. According to the article a decision from Judge Mehta voted in favor of the cigar industry, claiming ”…the FDAs move to regulate premium cigars ‘arbitrary and capricious’…”.

Stand strong my fellow brothers and sisters of the leaf, we may yet prevail and shake loose the tyranny of the oppressive government overreach. Thanks for reading.

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