TAMPA, Fla. - Eric Newman is a third generation cigar maker, the proud head of Tampa's J.C. Newman Cigar Co., one of the nation's last three big stogie producers. He's happy the Republican National Convention has landed here, but not just because delegates are buying up his new and acclaimed Diamond Crown Julius Caeser cigars.
He's taking advantage of his audience to press Washington lawmakers to protect U.S. premium cigar makers from more regulations like the 700 percent tax hike that savaged the industry three years ago. His new fear: If President Obama loses to Mitt Romney, he'll spring a slew of new regulations on the tobacco industry to stop kids from smoking.
"It would be a real struggle" if more regulations rain down on his firm of 125 workers, said Newman. The industry has a bill, H.R. 1639, with over 200 sponsors, and it would limit the Food and Drug Administration's efforts to regulate "premium cigar" makers. Said Newman, "kids aren't smoking our cigars."
Michigan Rep. Bill Huizenga, a co-sponsor, agreed. "You can't have the federal government coming in and regulating every parental decision," he said. Plus, he added, cigar making is legal and had a rich history in the U.S. "It's a legal product. Why shoot ourselves in the foot (with jobs-killing regulations) and then admire our aim?"