FDA Wants To Roll the Cigar Industry
Jeff Edgens is a member of the Executive Committee for the Libertarian Party of Georgia and a member of the Cigar Rights of America. He lives in Statesboro, Georgia.
Cigars have a family tree that can be traced back like that of a pencil. I,Pencil - the classic article written by Leonard Reed describes how a pencil is made. In his essay, Reed chronicles the business transactions seen and unseen in the manfuacture of a pencil. He distinguishes between the invisible hand of the marketplace that brings willing buyers and sellers together from that of the planned economy foisted on to the marketplace by a regulatory agency.
I, Pencil reminds us that no single person has the knowledge to make a pencil and the same holds true for making a cigar. Both are made by a myriad of individual business transactions that cooperate and bring to bear their respective talents toward a final product.
In this case, besides rolling the cigar there are all of the steps that come before the final product reaches the hands of the customer. There are those who provide the raw materials to build the tools used to harvest the tobacco. There are those who harvest the leaf, those who ship it, those who buy the leaf, those who roll it, those who market it, and those who sale the final product. Other steps are unseen and those are the ones that take place long before a cigar ever reaches the marketplace. There are entirely too many transactions for one person or an agency of people to know how to direct or control.
Yet, federal regulators think they can direct a process that the invisible hand brings about willingly. Food and Drug Administration bureaucrats propose rules that get in the way of these willing buyers and sellers working in their own self-interest. The FDA believes it can actually direct or centrally plan the steps along the road to building a cigar. Regulations, though, only harm the little guy and all of those people invovled in making a cigar.
When President Obama passed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act it was done to place tobacco products under the control of the Food and Drug Administration’s central planners. Bureaucrats work by mandating to others and not through the idea of voluntary cooperation. FDA’s proposed rules jeopardizes over 85,000 jobs in the U.S and will destroy a lot of Main Street, USA“mom and pop” retailers. Another 250,000 jobs aligned with the cigar industry in Latin America are also at risk from FDA overreach.
To be clear, a handful of government officials can never accomplish through regulation and command what thousands of people cooperating together can achieve. Hundreds of years of knowledge in various fields, and the collective lifetimes of learning hard economic lessons, cannot be controlled by one agency and expect a better product as a result. Only those working towards self-interest can accomplish the feat of making a cigar.
All of these craftsmen and laborers have one thing in common - they work to provide a life for themselves, not because they like cigars, perhaps they do, but it’s because they benefit themselves and by doing-so benefit others.
When bureaucrats dictate how a product is to be made, they distort the marketplace and interfere with all of those hundreds of people’s abilities to earn a living. Agency actions will only serve to weaken the cigar industry and at worst to extinguish a quality of life enjoyed by thousands. It’s a good bet they have no idea what they are regulating in or regulating out.
The FDA cigar cops have a list of things they want to change about how cigars are made and sold. They want to ban flavored cigars, and they want to interefere with cigar art by manadating pictures of the health effects of smoking be plastered over the fine cigar boxes created by skilled artisans. The FDA doesn’t stop there—they propose regulations to prohibit handing out cigars at cigar events, banning mail-order cigar sales, and limiting the marketing and advertising of cigars.
Perhaps worst of all, FDA officials think they are in the cigar making business. Proposed rules include regulating the types of tobacco blends from which to make a cigar. FDA would approve the contents of a cigar instead of the cigar maker deciding new blends. A cigar maker would have to submit prospective samples of a blend to the FDA for its approval. Once the agency approves the blend then the company can begin to manufacture the cigar. FDA arrogance knows no bounds if it thinks it knows best how to build a cigar.
In a bit of good news for the cigar industry Congress is considering legislation to exempt cigar manufacturers from the clutches of the FDA. By doing so, it protects jobs and hundreds of small famly cigar businesses across the country. It would be best if there were no need for the legislaton and a legal business could go on its merry way unmolested to participate in a free market.
Indeed, those businesses engaged in free-markets realize that thousands of willing buyers and sellers cannot be successfully directed from a bureaucratic Mt. Olympus. It bears repeating, one person does not know all there is to produce a cigar and rest assured that FDA central planners do not either. But it doesn’t stop them from trying to roll an entire industry, their actions will only get in the way of a good cigar.