ROANOKE, Va.—When the owners of Milan Tobacconists recently celebrated the shop's 100th anniversary, Glynn Loope was front and center. The Executive Director of the group Cigar Rights of America lives in Botetourt County.
"Done 28 states in the last 24 months, and we're back and forth to Washington 2 or 3 days a week," Loope told us in an interview, "so the cigar industry for the first time in its history is getting its act together politically."
Loope was the Executive Director of the Alleghany Highlands Economic Development Authority for several years, and he worked as a Richmond lobbyist after that. Now he and a team of Washington lobbyists are promoting legislation that would prevent the Food and Drug Administration from regulating cigars.
"Children don't buy 10 dollar cigars," Loope said in an interview. "The price point alone keeps these out of the hands of America's youth. They're enjoyed by adults in moderation. The average cigar smoker smokes two cigars a week. It's clearly not addictive."
Health advocates might disagree, but Loope makes a distinction between the cigar industry and "big tobacco," between the average cigar smoker and someone addicted to cigarettes. With thousands signing petitions, and more than 200 members of Congress supporting the legislation, Loope believes a campaign directed from his home in Blue Ridge is finally catching fire.