The 83rd Annual IPCPR Convention & International Trade Show in New Orleans, July 17-21, 2015 will mark my first year as the CEO of the IPCPR. And what a year it has been! The threat of FDA regulation, never ending state tax and smoking ban threats, moving the trade show to New Orleans and the relocation of our headquarters to Washington, DC have kept the member volunteer leadership and dedicated staff super busy. Change is happening.
Immediately after last year's trade show in Vegas, your IPCPR leadership got to work and drafted comments to the FDA regarding proposed language to extend its tobacco authority to additional tobacco products, including cigars. That language included an "Option II" that would exempt premium cigars along with a definition of premium cigars. That exemption, with some modifications to the definition, represents a common sense approach to government oversight given the primary goal of preventing youth access. Minors are not even permitted in nearly 90% of IPCPR member shops. Minors use of premium cigars is not a problem. Regulating our small sliver of the tobacco universe make no sense and would divert limited resources needlessly. "Option I" throws us into the same regulatory world as currently regulated tobacco products and would have a devastating impact on retailers and manufacturers alike. Jobs will be lost. Your IPCPR, along with industry partner associations has spent countless hours in front of Members of Congress and Administration officials making the case that regulation is in the case of premium cigars, a solution in search of a problem. House Bill 662 and Senate Bill 441 represent our legislative efforts at exemption. IPCPR has organized four Capitol Hill "fly-ins" where retailers can educate Congress face-to-face. We also joined with Cigar Rights of America to meet with the Administration to make sure they understand how premium cigars are indeed, different from other products. I wish I could tell you which way the FDA is headed and what language we can expect. We believe we will see the final rule sometime this summer or early fall. You need to join the fight! Please go to www.ipcprlegislative.org where you can learn about the issue and easily send a message to Congress.
Also at www.ipcprlegislative.org you can take advantage of information critical to your business operation at the state level. Every state has detailed licensing, regulatory, tax and other requirements. You can find all this information on our website. The ground war really is in the state capitols. With our network of twenty-two state lobbyists and in partnership with the Cigar Association of America, IPCPR works hard to fight OTP tax increases and new smoking bans that hurt your business.
If you really want to help protect your industry and your business, you should join your peers in New Orleans in July. The IPCPR show is the focus for new releases and access to products not found anywhere else. You will also have the opportunity to learn from retail leaders from inside and outside the industry with our seminar line-up designed to make you more profitable. We do want you to have a great time so we're bringing in the band, America, for our first ever IPCPR Cigar Bash. New products, learning, networking with peers and great entertainment. Sign up today at IPCPR.ORG.
The IPCPR will be relocating its headquarters to Washington, DC later this year. (Why DC? Read above!) We purchased a three level commercial townhouse on the Senate side of Capitol Hill with easy access to Congress and a five minute walk to Union Station which serves both Amtrak and the Metro. Having our currently dispersed staff under one roof will also help us serve you better. We are including a meeting and event space so that we can host members of IPCPR when in town and also host Members of Congress for various functions throughout the year. Currently we are finishing up the design work and will then go to the permitting process before the build out begins. I am hoping for an August completion. We really look forward to you making IPCPR your home when you visit DC!
Mark Pursell, CEO
International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association