Operating out of Austin, TX with a production of about 30,000 cigars per month, Black Label Trading Co. is the personification of boutique cigars.

I recently caught up with Angela Brown, Partner at BLTC to discuss her response to the recent FDA regulation against premium cigars.

She lives in Nicaragua and operates Fabrica Oveja Negra, the factory arm of the growing cigar company. With an integrated operation, controlling both manufacturing and distribution; BLTC has all the ingredients to one day become a major player in the cigar industry.

However, if people like you and I don’t take action to stop the FDA’s over reach, a company like Black Label Trading Co. may not exist 12 months from now.

I asked Angela what possible impact this new regulatory environment could have on her business, her response was chilling:

“We are reeling and not sure what the final outcome will be until we know what the FDA application process will entail and how much it will cost.  We are a small boutique cigar company and also cigar factory.  If the fee is too great we will have to evaluate if it’s worth staying in business.  Living in Nicaragua and  running our factory on a daily basis is a constant reminder of the impact this will have beyond our family and the United States.  Each of our employees and the families that depend on them will be devastated if our factory is forced to close.”

While I have a lot of faith in the future of American enterprise, this sort of disproportionate government meddling doesn’t bode well for future generations of entrepreneurs. I understand we need to have regulation to avoid catastrophes like the recent Great Recession, but regulation shouldn’t destroy the ability to conduct business altogether.  (explore further)

Unfortunately it is…

According to Mitch Zeller, head of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, “All cigars pose serious negative health risks. To exclude some would be neglecting our duty to protect public health.” (source)

On this point I can agree, for the sake of keeping children safe and creating awareness of the health impacts of using tobacco related products, we can justify some form of regulation.

But when regulation threatens to wipe out large swaths of the very industry it is simply trying to reign in, this classifies as obscene over reach.

If you are the casual cigar smoker or the hardcore enthusiast who has nothing to do with the industry side of your favorite pastime, why should you care about Angela’s story or that of Fratello Cigars which you can read by clicking here?

Because the astronomical cost of approving new cigars for sale will prevent many great cigars from ever reaching your humidor.

If this type of regulation happened before Padron, Arturo Fuente or Davidoff were major players, those cigars may not be on the market today.

Rocky Patel, who has been a fierce advocate in preserving the soul of the premium cigar industry states, “some of our analysis says $300,000-$400,000 per cigar/per SKU/per blend.” (source)

Although I have seen much larger numbers mentioned, $300k – $400k for a single size and brand of cigar to receive FDA approval would be cost prohibitive for most boutique brands.

The net result would be boutique brands like Black Label Trading Co. shutting down, leaving less choice for the average consumer and potentially higher prices.

Also, this isn’t simply an attack on the premium cigar industry, but on the ability of responsible adults to choose which activities they want to enjoy without Big Brother stepping in.

It is part of a long list of policies eroding small business across America; while paving the way for big corporations to determine your options for you. (explore further)

What can you do? 

For starters, sign the petition on Whitehouse.gov (click here)

Also reach out to Black Label Trading Co. to learn more about the march on the Capitol on Aug. 8th. (info@blacklabeltrading.com)

“We are hoping people will continue to support the many efforts to voice the negative impact this will have.  There are people organizing a march on the Capitol Aug 8th and we hope it’s a huge turnout so our voices can be heard.” –  Angela Brown

I share this with you because the voice of our industry needs to be shared. On the outside looking in, it is easy to underestimate the recent FDA regulation because the impact isn’t immediate.

However, two years from now when local B&M’s start shutting down and cigar prices double or in some cases triple, we will wish we took action while we still had a chance to make a difference.

That day is today, the choice is yours. My advice, act now… (sign the petition)


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