FORT WORTH—Kids: time to hang up your smoking jackets. The FDA is looking to regulate premium cigars. The reason? It says manufacturers market to kids.
Local cigar retailers say the regulations could burn up their businesses.
Nearly every day a handful of Fort Worth's prominent professionals spend their lunch hour at Tobacco Lane on the Square. You could consider it an unofficial social club.
"Mainly, we do it for the camaraderie," said Coffey.
Of late, the talk has turned political.
In 2009, Congress passed the Tobacco Control Act. It was created, in part, to keep tobacco products out of the hands of kids.
"No offense to cigarette smokers, but there's a huge difference," said Coffey.
Under the act, aggressive warning labels were set to appear on packs of cigarettes this September. A federal appeals court blocked them, saying they infringe on tobacco companies' First Amendment rights.
"What they want to do is add a warning label on the cigar itself," said Glen Elliot, the owner of Tobacco Lane on the Square.
The act doesn't regulate premium cigars yet. On the FDA's website, it says cigars are considered tobacco products, but the act doesn't automatically apply to them. The FDA must issue a regulation deeming cigars subject to the law.
"They intend to regulate cigars," said Bill Spann, CEO of the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association.
Cigar advocates hope to prevent the FDA from issuing that regulation, with legislation. Two bills are currently working their way through congress.
"Premium cigars, they're not inhaled. No one ducks outside for 15 minutes for a cigar break. No one's smoking two boxes of cigars a day. They are celebratory in nature, and they're enjoyed by adults," said Spann.
If applied to cigars, the act would, in part, outlaw flavored cigars and self-serve walk-in humidors.
"That's going to affect us immensely, which means we would have to reconstruct what we're doing. It would be a humidor like what we have in the wine cellar, which is totally concealed. Nobody has access. It's under lock and key," said Elliot.
Elliot worries the regulations could ruin his business of more than 30 years, and his customers worry they'd see their social club go up in smoke.