From Capitol Hill to State Legislatures to the Food & Drug Administration, 2020 was a monumental year for differentiating premium cigars from other tobacco products. In 2019, the Premium Cigar Association (PCA) took on an aggressive campaign, meeting with nearly 500 lawmakers on the distinctiveness of premium cigars and drawing upon a decade of public health and small business economic data. Even among lawmakers who actively support the challenges facing premium cigars, we have seen a noticeable uptick in the recognition of their uniqueness. Our goal now is to build on the heightened awareness and transform it into actionable policy outcomes through the legislative and regulatory process.
The key characteristics of premium cigars include:
- Infrequent use
- Lack of addictiveness
- Lack of a threat to public health
- Lack of youth usage
Additionally, the target market for premium cigars are consumers with a higher level of education who purchase products for special occasions and for social or cultural gatherings.
These facts combined form our best defense against obtrusive regulatory and legislative enactments that are introduced with the aim to target other tobacco products on the market. We must continue effective education campaigns and adult public awareness campaigns on premium cigars emphasizing the artisanal nature and complex process that goes into making them. From the field to the retail store shelf and all steps in between, it is clear: premium cigars are different.
PCA has worked diligently to facilitate a clearer understanding of premium cigars through our live public engagement series and through digital interviews with the leaders and entrepreneurs that make our industry both unique and robust. We now have a repository of information that can be easily shared through digital outlets, but we must also engage in one-on-one discussions and grassroots engagement.
Our advocacy and lobbying team work to produce one-pagers and informational resources to make this process straightforward and easy to get involved in for manufacturers, retail store owners, employees, and consumers. As we enter 2021 with a new Congress and adjourning of dozens of state legislatures, we must build off our past succuss and amplify the voices of our industry once again. This is a continuous process that requires self-starters and vigilant ambassadors for premium cigars.
A few weeks ago, PCA tracked legislation at the state level that would require any purveyor of tobacco to be required to sell a nicotine cessation product at their store, lounge, or venue. These nicotine cessation products are meant to curb the use of mass market combustible cigarettes. We quickly contacted state lawmakers and mobilized grassroots advocates to educate policymakers on the infrequency of use and how premium cigars do not satisfy a nicotine addiction or craving. The language of the original version of the bill would have forced small businesses to carry products that would not apply to their products or consumers. This would have been a costly requirement for small businesses in a challenging time.
Our educational efforts, along with the efforts of retailers and consumers in that state have resulted in an open dialogue with bill sponsors and a willingness to amend the legislation to improve the overall effectiveness of the bill and to tailor the language to produce actual policy outcomes.
If you are a PCA member, you have likely seen key statistics and facts highlighted time and again. This repetition is a part of a concerted effort as part of our overall education and outreach strategy to build a basic understanding of premium cigars so that we may effectively mobilize people to carry that message forward. You have the power to make a difference. A simple call, email, text message, or social media post can be the difference between successful asserting our factual narrative and ending up lumped in with other tobacco products.