Tampa's last cigar factory fights FDA regulations to stay in business

YBOR CITY, Fla. — Rhonda Jean used to work at the Hav-A-Tampa plant, but got laid off when they shut down.

Now, she’s worried the same thing could happen at J.C. Newman Cigar Co, a family-owned company that’s been making cigars for 123 years.

“I pray each and every day that they don’t shut us down because I love the place where I work,” said Jean.

Eric Newman’s grandfather started the company. He says proposed FDA regulations on premium cigars could put them out of business.

That would leave 135 factory workers unemployed.

“We have great people here. They’ve done nothing wrong. It’s just interferences from Washington that could very well jeopardize their livelihood,” said Newman.

FDA officials say the unregulated cigar market is like the “Wild, Wild, West" and they are trying to put cigars under the same regulations as cigarettes.

They say while cigarette smoking is down, use of other tobacco products including cigars is up.

But J.C. Newman is campaigning with signs and buttons, hoping to keep premium cigars exempt from the FDA.

“If we want to keep a cigar on the market we have to go through a pre-market review process. It would cost us millions, so that’s what we are fighting,” said Newman.

You can support the cigar makers here.

For more information on the FDA’s proposals, click here. 

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