TPE 2012: Cigar Industry Needs United Front
LAS VEGAS -- Several tobacco categories have already come under the microscope of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the general consensus seems to be that cigars' turn is coming. Insiders caution that the cigar industry needs to come together as a whole now, before the FDA acts.
"The politics of tobacco is the politics of diversion. We are too easy of a target. We set ourselves up for that because we never fought back," said Glynn Loope, executive director of Cigar Rights of America (CRA).
Speaking at a premium cigar panel at Tobacco Plus Expo 2012, Loope added that this is the most exciting time politically for tobacco, and he said industry players need to band together and stand up for themselves. One way to do that, he said, is to follow the lead of the alcoholic beverage industry.
Jim Young, president of Davidoff USA, seconded that. He joined the company just five months ago, officially taking the helm in September and leaving Guinness USA where he also served as president. Fresh from its aborted sponsorship of the Orange Bowl, Davidoff USA has earmarked the money it would have spent on that sponsorship to support CRA and get the cigar industry's message out to lawmakers.
Just as importantly, though, Young said there are also steps the cigar industry can follow to help themselves. From his experience, the three biggest lessons to learn from the alcoholic beverage industry are unity, responsibility and "it's personal," he said.
"Despite the tremendous differences in areas of taxation among beer, wine and spirits, those three provide a unified front with stakeholders like key legislators and groups like [MADD]. It wasn't easy and it isn't easy," he said. "We need to ask ourselves: Is there more we can do as an industry to present ourselves in a unified way?"
As for responsibility, the cigar industry needs to take control of its own destiny, so to speak. It's now an issue of self-regulate or get regulated, Young added. For example, the alcoholic beverage industry joined together to develop and embrace a "rigorous" marketing code and stuck with it. That marketing code includes no-brainers such as do not market to underage drinkers, as well as mandating that one in every five advertisements must be a responsible drinking ad.
Whatever paths the cigar industry decides to take, as they face increased scrutiny from lawmakers and the FDA, it is clear that the industry must do something, the panelists stressed.
"I told my children if you want to come into the cigar industry, you will have to be a political activist the rest of your life," said Bobby Newman, executive vice president of JC Newman Cigar Co.