Bill Clarifying Cigar Donations to Troops Introduced

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As part of the fallout of the regulation of premium cigars by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), some in the cigar industry feared that the prohibition on free samples would have an unfortunate casualty, the donation of cigars to those serving in the military.

Recently, J.C. Newman, Rocky Patel Premium Cigars and Thompson Cigar have come out and said that they will be suspending donations of cigars to troops, as has the charitable organization Support the Troops. The companies recently told the Tampa Bay Times that they are suspending donations out of a concern that they would be in violation of FDA regulations.

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While some in the industry may be hesitant to send cigars to troops, some are not, and there’s a federal legislator who promises a bill that will ensure it remains legal.

Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, has announced that she will be introducing a bill to the House of Representatives when the chamber returns to work this week.

Editor’s Note: There’s nothing in the rules that explicitly bars charitable donations of cigars. Under halfwheel’s interpretation of the rules, private citizens are still able to give and/or donate cigars as they choose. The question is whether retailers and manufacturers are able to make these donations without violating the sampling/enticement provisions in the deeming regulations. — CM.

“FDA’s regulations are unreasonable and I will do everything I can to change them so that our troops do not miss out on the generosity of companies like yours,” Castor wrote to Thompson chief operating officer Alix Franzblau, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

While some in the industry have stopped their donations amidst FDA regulations, the vagueness of the agency’s rules aren’t stopping everyone in the industry from sending to stogies serving abroad.

Storm Boen, chairman of the board of Cigars for Warriors, a 501(c)3 non-profit, has already publicly said that his organization will continue to make donations:

PLEASE SHARE: “Cigars for Warriors as the ONLY 501c3 federal designated Charity that sends cigars to our deployed troops, will continue supplying the number one requested item to our troops, premium cigars, along with other extra goods like coffee, magazines, cutters, lighters, cedar spills, etc. Op: CFW is fulfilling a true need to our deployed US Service members with an Average of 25,000 premium cigars being sent out a month. As of August 1st 2016 Op: CFW has sent over 750k premium cigars to our deployed troops, 100% requested only!! We do understand during this time of confusion that our donations will drop off from our manufacturers who would love to continue helping us but absolutely need to protect their company first and rightfully so. Many of our manufacturers partners are going to continue supplying CFW. The FDA Deeming and FDA Tobacco Brief absolutely does not affect tax breaks. There are many mis-interpretations and mis-information about the recent FDA deeming. We are working with one of the top law firms and lobbyist groups in the country to make sure that our manufacturers who are still donating to our deployed troops in combat zones, are protected and well informed. Absolutely nothing in the deeming or the FDA Tobacco Briefing affects donations coming from the public that are donated at donations centers and events. As the public can easily imagine, CFW will be depending even more on our public supporters to help make up the loss of some of the almost 40% cigar donations we get from our manufacturers. If you want to find out how to donate please feel free to go the CFW Website, cigarsforwarriors.org . Many thanks to all of our Manufacturers, 400 plus Donation Centers, 62 Social Clubs and almost 400 volunteers who continue to make our mission a reality!” #doingittogetherjd #dirtycats4life #supportthetroops #cfw #cigarsforwarriors #savetheleaf #cigars #fuckthefda

A photo posted by Storm Boen (@storm1b) on


Nick Perdomo of Perdomo Cigars, who served as an air traffic controller in the U.S. Navy, has also said via Facebook that he will continue to send cigars to troops.

The vagueness of the rules is leading the International Premium Cigars & Pipe Retailers’ Association (IPCPR), to advise its retail and manufacturing members according to the strictest interpretation of the rule, which would prohibit sending samples to troops, but only out of an obligation to protect members’ best interest, according to Matt Dogali, senior director of state affairs for IPCPR.

While the issue of being able to send cigars to troops is an important one, Dogali stressed that it should be a reminder to focus on getting cigars exempted from FDA regulation. He told halfwheel that this latest issue should prompt consumers, retailers and manufacturers to contact their Congressional representatives and encourage them to support an exemption for premium cigars from FDA regulation.

The text of Rep. Castor’s bill, H.R. 5955 can be found here

Neither Boen or Perdomo replied to requests for comment for this story.

Photo By English: Cpl Brian Reimers [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Patrick Lagreid
About the author

I strive to capture the essence of a cigar and the people behind them in my work – every cigar you light up is the culmination of the work of countless people and often represents generations of struggle and stories. For me, it’s about so much more than the cigar – it’s about the story behind it, the experience of enjoying the work of artisans and the way that a good cigar can bring people together. In addition to my work with halfwheel, I’m the public address announcer for the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks during spring training, as well as for the Salt River Rafters of the Arizona Fall League, the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury and the Arizona Rattlers of the Indoor Football League. I also work in a number of roles for MLB.com, plus I'm a voice over artist. I previously covered the Phoenix and national cigar scene for Examiner.com, and was an editor for Cigar Snob magazine.

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