President Biden’s recent proclamation on World Trade Week emphasizes the importance of trade in building an economy that benefits all workers and fosters inclusive prosperity. His statements focusing on manufacturing, labor standards, environmental stewardship, and fair competition reflected themes on which the premium cigar industry has led for generations. The premium cigar industry is a staple of U.S. main street economy that, due to its agricultural and artisanal nature, is interdependent with economies around the world. Yet, while the President was touting the virtues of trade in building stronger and more equitable economies, agencies within the Federal Government continued to quietly advance an agenda aimed at raising market barriers across the premium cigar global supply chain.
Investing in America
In the heart of every community lies a premium cigar retailer. Rooted in skilled retail, these small businesses provide opportunities for steady employment and are social centers for diverse communities of all sizes. These types of businesses support the working class in America and an entire cadre of workers – from farmers to skilled rollers, transportation, and more. None of these jobs exist without the point of sale that occurs in a retail store. Yet while the President calls for investment in America, FDA is pursuing regulations that would severely restrict product lines in stores.
Promoting Fair Trade and Cooperation
Investing in America’s cigar retailers is not just about fulfilling the American Dream for small business owners but about supporting economies critical to U.S. allies worldwide. The premium cigar market in the U.S. wouldn’t exist without the hundreds of thousands of farmers, blenders, rollers, cabinet makers, logistics, and other skilled tradesmen working in the Caribbean Basin, Africa, Europe, and Southeast Asia. President Biden’s focus on fair competition and cooperation resonates with the premium cigar industry’s values. Internationally, the industry is well known for its investment in local infrastructure and workforce development. The industry has long supported the development of free trade zones, anticounterfeiting measures, and collaborations that promote innovation rooted in heritage. The President has long supported fair trade as a tool for democracy. So why is FDA permitted to sabotage U.S. foreign relations with a proposed rule that would force U.S. manufacturing standards on sovereign soil?
Building Environmentally Sustainable and Resilient Supply Chains
The COVID-19 pandemic deeply impacted the global supply chain, and the premium cigar industry was no differently affected. The final product is perishable and requires high-quality and specialized raw materials curated from around the world. Because premium cigar tobaccos require specific climates, soils, and harvesting schedules, environmental impacts and workforce shortages can be devastating. The premium cigar industry has long worked hard to address deforestation, and water runoff and improve the use of renewable energy. The best way to ensure that is for the Administration to work with our neighbors to protect their most vital exports, including premium cigars. Unfortunately, they also support blanket prohibitions on the Department of State, Department of Commerce, and Department of Agriculture from supporting tobacco-related industries, including the promotion of premium cigar tobacco grown in the U.S.
Supporting Small Businesses and Underserved Communities
President Biden emphasizes the inclusion of diverse voices, including small businesses and underserved communities, in policymaking. Premium cigar retail comprises thousands of small businesses and entrepreneurs serving as community social centers. As such, they employ locally and are interwoven in the community’s concerns. The industry is proudly diverse, both in ownership and in its consumers. As an affordable adult luxury, it transcends social and economic status and beautifully incorporates the tastes and interests of America’s melting pot. Yet recent rulemakings affecting these small businesses conveniently avoid assessing the economic impact on women and minority-owned businesses.
As we celebrate World Trade Week, it is important to recognize the premium cigar industry’s contribution to the ideals conveyed by President Biden. By valuing American specialty retail, promoting trade practices, and supporting small businesses and underserved communities, the premium cigar industry aligns with the President’s vision for an equitable and prosperous economy. As an industry, we remain committed to engaging in dialogue, fostering partnerships, and actively participating in the initiatives put forth by the Biden Administration to ensure a brighter future for all Americans. But we can’t ignore that elsewhere in the Federal apparatus the message falls on deaf ears. Studies sponsored by the Department of Health and Human Services, FDA, and conducted by numerous leading research institutions now concur that the data on premium cigar use doesn’t fit the political narrative of a public health crisis. It’s time for Federal regulators to catch up and reverse course on policies that damage U.S. trade relations. In observing World Trade Week, let us celebrate the achievements of the premium cigar industry that embody the spirit of inclusive prosperity and economic revitalization.
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