Tampa, Florida -- There is only 24 hours left for people to petition the Food and Drug Administration to exempt J.C. Newman Cigars from new regulations that otherwise would close the last cigar factory in Tampa.
"We hope that everybody in Tampa who cares about keeping the cigar in Cigar City go to our website and tell the FDA not to regulate us of business," said Eric Newman, president of J.C. Newman Cigar Company and grandson of the company's founder.
Proposed FDA regulations could mean the end of J.C. Newman cigars, the last one in Ybor City.
The federal agency wants the cigar industry to adhere to the same regulations that the cigarette industry does. The rules would require the cigar firms to test the product, pay for regulation and provide a list of ingredients. All that adds to the cost of the cigars.
In the 1880s, Don Vicente Martinez-Ybor arrived in Tampa on the promise of inexpensive land and built the first red-brick cigar factory, according to the Ybor City Chamber of Commerce. Other manufacturers followed. The industry drew immigrants from Spain, Cuba and Sicily, and Romanian merchants opened stores to serve the community.
By the 1920s, Ybor City was home to more than 150 cigar factories, making Tampa internationally recognized as the "Cigar Capital of the World," according to an essay written by Eric Newman in The Tampa Tribune.
But, then came the Great Depression, industry mechanization, the Cuban embargo, competition from low-wage Caribbean countries, and massive federal excise tax increases, one-by-one almost all of Tampa's cigar factories have disappeared, Newman wrote. And the J.C. Newman Cigar Company is the lone survivor.
Supporters can go to this link to support the cigar factory.