Cigar makers say new FDA testing regulations could put them under

Cigar makers in Ybor City are concerned about new FDA regulations they say could put them out of business.

Premium cigar shops, staples of Ybor City like Tabanero Cigars, are worried new federal regulations will be too expensive for them to comply.

"It's not good for our business," Tabanero Cigars Sales Manager Jim Collins said. "If we have to give a certain amount of cigars for testing and pay for the testing, I mean, we are just a little mom and pop."

That's why U.S. Senator Marco Rubio is leading a bi-partisan effort to protect businesses like Tabanero Cigars.

"Small manufacturers and retailers of premium cigars are wrongfully being targeted," Sen. Rubio said.

The senator hosted a hearing at Hillsborough County Community College Friday with Democratic Congresswoman Kathy Castor, local cigar makers, and a tobacco researcher.

"It's simply not right for government to unfairly place detrimental fees and regulations on an entire industry because some don't like the product they are manufacturing," Rubio said.

Rubio argues the FDA is unfairly requiring premium cigar makers to comply with testing, which shop owners say isn't financially possible. Rubio is now introducing a bill that, if passed, would exempt premium cigarmakers from being required to include a Surgeon General’s warning covering 33% of a product’s packaging.

Sales Manager Jim Collins says covering one-third of their packaging would defeat the purpose for why many people buy and gift cigars.

"It's apples and oranges," Collins said. "This is handmade. It's an art. Cuban artisans make these cigars. They are not made by machines. They are premiere cigars."

The FDA has yet to set a deadline for when cigar makers must submit products for testing.