Friday, July 31, 2009

Here Comes the Federal Government – Again.

By J. Glynn Loope, CRA Executive Director
Here on the advent of SCHIP taking effect and raising the price of your favorite cigar, the appetite in Washington for federal intervention in the tobacco industry continues to grow. Now the issue is not just money, but regulation – unbridled and unchecked regulation by a mammoth bureaucracy. Incidentally, the same bureaucracy that's charged with maintaining food safety and drug approval evidently needs more to do.

Rapid Congressional action is being unleashed with legislation patroned by California Congressman Henry Waxman, in the form of HR 1256, which would grant unprecedented federal authority over all forms of tobacco to the Food and Drug Administration – a thought that has been with Congress for over a decade.

HR 1256 has already passed the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which would also allow FDA to regulate the manufacture, distribution and retailing of all tobacco products. It could literally dictate the minutia of color advertising, and allows the imposition of “user fees” on manufacturers to fund FDA regulation, that would mean an estimated $7.6 billion on the industry, over the next ten years. A component of the Waxman bill that is also quite troubling is the ability for FDA to reach onto the actual farm producing the tobacco, and impose a new slate of mandates on the farming community.

CRA noted that the President has recently announced two new nominees to leadership positions at FDA. Dr. Margaret Hamburg served as New York City 's Health Commissioner in the 1990s, and would serve as FDA Commissioner. For the number two post at FDA, President Obama has selected Health Commissioner for the City of Baltimore, Maryland Dr. Joshua Sharfstein. Both of which were leaders of efforts in their respective cities to ban all forms of smoking, including bans in restaurants and bars.

Alternative LegislationWhile no one knows if compromise is in the air, there is an alternative piece of legislation to address the same issue. US Congressman Steve Buyer, as a Republican of Indiana has joined with Congressman Mike McIntyre, Democrat of North Carolina and introduced HR 1261. This legislation seeks to address tobacco in an alternative method, without government regulation.

As opposed to FDA, the Buyer/McIntyre bill would establish the Tobacco Harm Reduction Center at the US Department of Health and Human Services. Its focus is on education and cessation. The new agency would have a sole focus on tobacco, as opposed to drug approval and food safety. Further, the Buyer/McIntyre legislation would not allow for intrusion on traditional farming practices, and would be paid for from general fund revenues, as opposed to new industry “user fees.” HR 1261 also would require states to adopt laws making it illegal for minors to purchase and possess tobacco products.

Click here to view a comparative description of the legislation.

CRA Announces Formation of State Cigar Clubs

In an effort to build a true national network of cigar enthusiasts, and to provide a new program for members to interact socially, as well as to engage in political support with CRA, we are announcing the formation of Cigar Rights Clubs for the states .

By virtue of your membership in CRA, you will be a member of your respective Cigar Rights Club for your state. This will allow us to communicate with you on specific issues that develop in your local community and state, in addition to having state member socials and special events with the makers of your favorite cigars.

This will be a great new way to invite your friends to join CRA, get together for cigar events at your local cigar shops, to be involved in local and state issues, and to build a great sense of camaraderie among our membership.

Also, we will start a competition among the states for new membership growth, with the winning states getting special events and “goodies” from CRA. One thing about cigar enthusiasts - they love a good time.

We will be creating a Cigar Rights Club section on the CRA web site for updates, as well as a news and events page on what's happening in your state. Through this link, you will be able to see where all of your favorite cigar companies are having special events, and those that are noted on the CRA's website as a Great American Cigar ShopTM.

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