Our thoughts on what makes a cigar "premium".

Charles Rutherford @ 2019-06-12 15:36:02 -0500

If not before this sentence, you now know that the FDA will soon be regulating tobacco. The less bad news is that the FDA is willing to make an exception for “premium” cigars. The trick: to define “premium” and the FDA has opened a comment period to solicit the public’s help.

That’s scary.

Why? The FDA’s list of considerations is fraught with items that manufacturers will use against each other to get themselves considered “premium.” Not to mention keeping others out of the category, relegating non-premium cigars to a non-exempt class that will abuse them with higher taxes and heavier merchandising, advertising and sampling restrictions.

The long list of FDA considerations are more than the lay person will care to read and use in their comments. This is a critical component of making a compelling argument.

For instance, the FDA would like the public’s opinion on how minimum weights per 1,000 cigars, flavors, percentage of short/medium/long filler, machine/hand made and minimum factors into making cigar “premium”, in order to avoid the beating non-exempt (non-premium) cigars will have to endure.

Of the thousands of comments the FDA is likely going to get, not one of them will be exactly the same, further confusing the FDA’s job. Keep in mind, the new restrictions wouldn’t make it any more illegal than it already is for those under 18 to buy tobacco, the new restrictions would ostensibly make it less appealing by not having fancy packaging.

We think all the minutiae misses the single commonality of “premium” cigars – the need to merchandise and store “premium” cigars in the industry-recognized standard of 65-70% humidity. While some of the items up for consideration may have merit, we tend to side with New Hampshire’s law, which includes the sentence “These [premium] cigars shall be kept in a humidor at the proper humidity”, which doesn’t show up anywhere in the items up for FDA consideration on defining “premium”. We think it’s a mistake not to have humidification as a consideration.

But Boveda, you make the only moisture control product used in manufacturer packaging. That’s right, because they understand the importance of proper transport and storage for their premium cigars. Sure, there are great premium cigars that don’t use Boveda, but there aren’t any non-premium cigars that do.

With the 75 day FDA comment period open until July 9th, we think it’s important for the FDA not only to hear the voice of cigar fans, but they also need to hear as similar a story as possible. A united front. While we may have different feelings on what makes a cigar “premium”, we think most of us would agree proper humidity control is a critical component of merchandising and storing your favorite cigars.

In any case, we encourage you to let the FDA know your thoughts (after carefully reading the instructions) so you can help craft what will be a defining time for premium cigars.

 

Charlie Rutherford
Business Development Director, Boveda

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