I respectfully urge you to please:
Include cigars made by the hand-operated vintage cigar machines in J.C. Newman's Tampa factory in the definition of "premium cigars" and Exclude premium cigars from FDA regulation.
As you know, J.C. Newman is a 119-year-old, four-generation, family-owned small business in Tampa, Florida. Since J.C. Newman hand-rolled his first cigars for the family grocer back in 1895, the J.C. Newman Cigar Co. has been making and marketing cigars for adults and not to adolescents – a strong business principle and commitment that continues today.
For the last 85 years, the J.C. Newman Cigar Co. has been making cigars using its vintage cigar machines that were built in the 1930s. These machines are operated by hand, and roll cigars with natural leaf tobacco wrappers and natural tobacco fillers that are indistinguishable from J.C. Newman's original handmade cigars.
J.C. Newman's vintage machine-made cigars are sold in the same specialty stores as handmade cigars, positioned on the same shelves as handmade cigars, marketed to adults the same as handmade cigars, smoked in moderation just like handmade cigars, and made and packaged so much like handmade cigars that consumers cannot readily distinguish between them and handmade cigars.
J.C. Newman's cigars are nothing like the mass-market cigars that have a homogenized paper tobacco wrapper and are often flavored. While J.C. Newman's hand-operated vintage cigar machines can roll 14 cigars per minute, the modern machines used to make mass-market cigars are fully automated and making thousands of cigars per minute. The packaging and marketing of these cigars are completely different, too.
The Proposed Rule would require J.C. Newman:
- To obtain prior approval from the FDA before creating or repackaging any new cigars. Your agency estimates that this “premarket review” would require 5,000 hours, making it impossible for J.C. Newman to create new products.
- To obtain rigorous scientific analysis of every type of cigar sold. Because of the boutique nature of the premium cigar industry, J.C. Newman sells hundreds of cigars under dozens of brand names. Requiring extensive laboratory analysis of each of them would be cost-prohibitive.
- To change its manufacturing practices. J.C. Newman has been rolling cigars the same way for over 75 years. If regulated, the FDA would have the authority to order J.C. Newman to adopt the “good manufacturing practices” and other “tobacco products standards,” even if its 1930's-era vintage cigar machines cannot meet them.
- To pay hundreds of thousands of dollars per year in user fees and comply with many other restrictions.
In 1886, Vicente Martinez Ybor brought the cigar industry to Tampa from Key West. In its heyday in Tampa had 150 factories – and now there is one. As the last remaining cigar factory in the “Cigar City” of Tampa, Florida, J.C. Newman would be forced to close if these proposed regulations were enacted. This would be a significant cultural and economic loss for both the city of Tampa and the State of Florida.
To prevent this from happening, I respectively request that the vintage cigars made by the hand-operated Depression-Era cigar machines in the J.C. Newman factory be included in FDA's definition of premium cigars and exempted from FDA regulation.
Thank you very much for your consideration.