Tampa, Florida -- Six U.S. senators -- including Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio -- are seeking an exemption from new FDA rules to save the J.C. Newman Cigar factory in Ybor City.
In the early 1900s, cigars put Tampa on the map, but only one factory remains: J.C. Newman.
The federal agency wants the $2 billion a year 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.
The senators want an exemption for Newman because its cigars are not mass produced. Modern machines make from 225,000 cigars to more than 1 million in one hour. Newman's Depression-era machines make only 840 an hour.
"You take an entire leaf of tobacco, you lay it on a machine and the machine cuts the leaf into the exact size that you then use to roll the premium cigar," said Nelson.
The company employs almost 150 people, including Eduardo Redding.
"I will lose my job. My wife also works here. We'd both be out of work and trying to raise our three kids," said Redding.
Eric Newman's grandfather started this factory, and plans to fight. A massive banner on the iconic building displays the website to petition the FDA. He says if his factory dies, so does a piece of Tampa.
"This is the cigar city. We're going to do what we can to keep it the cigar city of the next 128 years," said Newman.
The deadline to sign a petition to support J.C. Newman is midnight Friday. Go here to sign the petition.