I am writing with regard to premium cigars being regulated by the FDA and treated the same as cigarettes and other nicotine delivery systems. Premium cigars are different. They are handcrafted as organoleptic delicacies: no different than fine wines or gourmet foods. As a consumer, retail tobacconist, and president of the organization that certifies professional and luxury tobacconists (Tobacconist University) I can attest that premium cigar consumers are adults who enjoy the relaxing, social and meditative value that the products are meant to convey. In addition, fine premium cigars are delicious and not used out of habit. The majority of our customers smoke approx. one cigar per week, to unwind and savor their time.
Furthermore, premium cigars cannot be defined by their retail price (ie. $10) because there are many inexpensive varieties, and while I prefer the flavor profiles of more expensive cigars, taste is subjective. Some consumers even prefer premium cigars that have infused or hints of other flavors: the same applies to fine wines and gourmet foods.
Ultimately, premium cigars are made from whole leaf dark tobaccos (not homogenized or processed). They are bunched by hand (often with the assistance of a Lieberman machine - which is a simple strip of canvas which helps compress the tobaccos evenly), and wrapped with a leaf of wrapper tobacco. Wrapper tobacco in particular is an exquisite leaf which is cultivated like rare orchids and applied by extraordinary crafts-men and women. The transformation of rustic leaves into a beautiful premium cigar takes years to unfold and it must be seen to be appreciated. I would welcome the opportunity to share these processes with the FDA. Hand crafted premium cigars are a special artisanal product and their cultivation and manufacture is an amazing and beautiful process.
I hope that you will take these facts into consideration and keep the regulation of premium cigars (and pipe tobaccos) separate from cigarettes and smokeless tobaccos. We currently have many creative boutique products in the marketplace and it would be a shame to find the premium cigar industry consolidated into a few massive multi-national corporations. Similarly, it would be a travesty to see retail tobacconists decimated by over regulation. Currently, retail tobacconists represent the best of America and the premium cigar industry. As the president of Tobacconist University, I represent hundreds of small retailers who work hard to service their customers and help them savor their time. We take great pride in our walk-in humidors and giving customers an immersive aromatic experience while they shop. We're an old-fashioned business selling hand crafted products which take years to create. And we love our products, customers, and our old-fashioned shops.
I would welcome the opportunity to help share with you any of my information, educational tools, connections, or access to this special industry. At the very least, please visit a certified tobacconist and experience the passion and professionalism that we provide. In our modern world where information travels at the speed of light, and change is increasingly unsettling, retail tobacconists and our consumers appreciate simple values like relaxation and hand crafted luxury products which help us savor our time.
Jorge L. Armenteros, CMT
President & Founder