Marco Rubio decries new FDA cigar regulations while visiting Tampa factory - Florida Politics

Marco Rubio decries new FDA cigar regulations while visiting Tampa factory

Marco Rubio‘s re-election campaign brought him to a 13o-year-old cigar factory in Tampa Wednesday, where he blasted proposed federal rules which could severely harm it and other cigar manufacturers in the U.S.

A recent FDA ruling initially intended to regulate smokeless tobacco products, but summarily expanded to include cigars, would compel manufacturers like the J.C. Newman Company to go through a rigorous and costly application before any new product could go on the market. Officials said the imposed verification process would radically slow the rate of new cigars going on shelves as well as the number of new cigars in general.

“This is one more added cost to production. It’s going to put these companies unfortunately out of business,” said Rubio, who received a tour of the factory before addressing the media. “When you tell any company you can no longer offer new products, without going through a very expensive process, any industry … I don’t care what you sell … you’re going to struggle to survive, especially facing unfair foreign competition.”

Eric Newman, president of the 130-year-old J.C. Newman Company located in Tampa’s V.M. Ybor section, calls the new proposal “draconian,” and said it would cost his company $2.5 million in compliance costs to fully implement.

Rubio and his U.S. Senate colleague from Florida, Democrat Bill Nelson, initially introduced legislation called the “Traditional Cigar Manufacturing & Small Business Jobs Preservation Act” in 2011, which would remove the FDA’s jurisdiction over the premium cigar industry by amending the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor filed similar legislation in the House. They’ve introduced similar bills in the 2013 and 2015 sessions, to no avail. Rubio said that he and Nelson would again push for that bill’s passage before the end of the year.

Rubio was joined by Tampa state House District 60 Republican Dana Young, who, like Rubio, is on the ballot next month, where she is running for the Senate District 18 seat.

“This is a classic example of how in a bipartisan way, at the state and federal level, we can work together and try to stop both regulations of small businesses like this one and needless red tape involved with lumping in one product that is part of our culture with others that cause harm to the public,” she said.

Adding insult to injury, both Newman and Rubio said, was President Obama’s announcement last Friday that it is eliminating a $100 limit on the value of Cuban rum and cigars that American travelers can bring back from the island. Travelers can now purchase unlimited quantities of Cuban cigars in any country where they are sold but they can only be for personal use and cannot be sold.

“We love the competition,” insisted Newman, but said it wouldn’t be a fair fight between his cigars and the ones imported from Cuba, since they won’t be required to do the compliance costs the FDA requires of American cigar manufacturers.

“At a time when Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton talk about bringing back American manufacturing jobs … the American government wants to shut us down, ” Newman said. “We’re horrified by that.”

Rubio also fielded questions on his Senate campaign, where the polls have suddenly tightened with Democrat Patrick Murphy with less than three weeks to go before Election Day.

“You don’t win in Florida in a presidential year as a Republican by 10 points. Or even by five points,” he said. “It is becoming the race I knew it would, which is a close race.” He then spent several moments listing what he said were his achievements in the Senate in the past six years.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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