Hillsborough County Democratic Rep. Kathy Castor has filed legislation to reinstate the tradition of donating cigars to U.S. military members who are deployed overseas.
The bill, titled “Restore Charitable Contributions of Premium Cigars to the Troops Act,” is a response to regulations on cigars, e-cigarettes and other products that took effect Aug. 8. Those regulations also include what has been understood to be a ban on the charitable donation of tobacco products.
Two weeks ago, the Tampa Bay Times reported the new regulations had prompted Tampa cigar retailers like J.C. Newman and Thompson Cigar to stop donating their products to U.S. troops based overseas, which led Castor to promise to take action when she returned to Washington after the congressional summer break.
“Charitable contributions of traditional, premium cigars to members of the U.S. Armed Forces — a time-honored tradition that dates back to World War I — were recently swept up and disallowed in the Food and Drug Administration’s regulation of a broad range of tobacco products that took effect Aug. 8,” Castor said in a statement Thursday.
“I strongly disagree with the FDA’s ban on premium cigars as charitable gifts to our troops and as donations to nonprofit organizations that in turn use these donations to support our troops.”
Castor also says she supports the Traditional Cigar Manufacturing and Small Business Jobs Preservation Act, which would exempt individually rolled, premium cigars from regulation by FDA because, unlike other tobacco products brought under the jurisdiction of FDA by the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, premium cigars are not marketed to children.
One of those affected by the new regulations was Mark Van Trees of Support the Troops, a Wesley Chapel-based organization that sends items like toiletries and snacks to troops overseas.
“We are the Cigar Capital and cigars are the second-most-requested item by our deployed troops,” said Van Trees, who now only has about a two-month supply to fulfill the 40-pound care packages the organization sends out every day to troops located where they can’t otherwise obtain cigars. “It’s a small way we can show our troops that we’re still thinking about them.
“It’s a nice release, and we receive thank-you letters and pictures.”