Save Cigar City

Grassroots Campaign: Save Tampa’s Last Cigar Factory

Third-generation cigar makers Eric and Bobby Newman and Congresswoman Kathy Castor (D-Tampa) announced the relaunch of “Save Cigar City,” a grassroots campaign urging the public to submit comments to the FDA asking that it exempt premium cigars from regulation and save Tampa’s last cigar factory. J.C. Newman Cigar Company is covering its iconic clock tower and famous neon sign with large banners visible from Interstate 4 to highlight the urgent threat it faces from FDA regulation.

Two years ago, the FDA decided to apply the same massive and costly regulations designed for cigarettes to all other tobacco products, including the hand-crafted premium cigars that J.C. Newman rolls at its 108-year-old “El Reloj” factory in Tampa’s Ybor City National Historic Landmark District. Complying with these regulations, which have yet to be fully implemented, will cost J.C. Newman an estimated $30 million — three times the factory’s annual gross sales.  According to FDA’s own estimates, regulation will cause up to 50% of all cigar companies to close.  

“For four-generations and 123 years, our family has been rolling premium cigars that are enjoyed by adults,” said Eric Newman. “All we are asking is for the government to allow us to continue our family tradition by relieving us of the burden of being regulated like cigarettes.”

Earlier this year, the FDA announced that it is reconsidering the regulation of premium cigars. The FDA is accepting public comments on this issue through June 25, 2018. Members of the public are encouraged to visit for more information and to submit comments to the FDA.  

“President Trump campaigned on eliminating job-killing regulations that hurt small businesses and whose costs greatly outweigh the benefits,” said Bobby Newman. “There is no better example of excessive government regulation than the regulation of premium cigars.”

Since the FDA decided to regulate premium cigars two years ago, new studies — funded and/or authored by FDA staff — have found that children do not smoke premium cigars, premium cigars are smoked infrequently, premium cigars are distinct from other tobacco products, and smoking premium cigars does not significantly increase mortality.  

In 2014 when the FDA was first considering regulating premium cigars, J.C. Newman first launched “Save Cigar City,” which asked the FDA to recognize that premium cigars are unique and should be treated differently than cigarettes. More than 6,700 people submitted comments to the FDA in support of saving J.C. Newman’s historic factory. Unfortunately, the FDA rejected these requests.

“We are very grateful to Congresswoman Castor for her leadership in protecting Tampa’s cigar heritage and home industry,” said Drew Newman. “As this is a bipartisan issue, we also appreciate the support of lead Republican co-sponsor Congressman Bill Posey and as well as Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, who are championing this effort in the Senate.”

Vicente Martinez Ybor brought the first cigar factory to Tampa in 1885. Many others followed and by 1920 there were 150 large cigar factories in Tampa that rolled more than 500 million cigars each year. The cigar industry fueled Tampa’s growth and made Tampa world famous. Unfortunately, Tampa’s other large cigar factories closed over the years and today J.C. Newman is the very last working cigar factory in Ybor City.  J.C. Newman currently employs 135 people at El Reloj.

Founded in 1895 by Julius Caeser Newman, J.C. Newman Cigar Company is the oldest family-owned premium cigar maker in America. J.C. Newman rolls its El Reloj, Factory Throwouts, and Trader Jacks cigars by hand-operated, vintage cigar machines at its historic cigar factory in Tampa, Florida. It also hand rolls its Brick House, Perla del Mar, El Baton, and Quorum cigars at the J.C. Newman PENSA cigar factory in Esteli, Nicaragua. J.C. Newman’s Diamond Crown, MAXIMUS, Julius Caeser, and Black Diamond cigars are handmade by Tabacalera A. Fuente in the Dominican Republic. With its longtime partners the Fuente family, the Newmans founded the Cigar Family Charitable Foundation, which supports low-income families in the Dominican Republic with education, health care, vocational training, and clean water.



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