TAMPA, Fla. - The J.C. Newman Cigar Company in Ybor City wants to import Cuban tobacco and has made a formal request of the U.S. government to do so.
After more than a century, the old tradition of crafting premium hand-rolled cigars still rolls on inside the company’s factory.
"Cigars are an important part of the fabric and character and history of Tampa and Cuba was a big piece of that," said Drew Newman, a fourth-generation cigar-maker.
So big, in fact, that a century ago, more cigars using Cuban tobacco were rolled here in Cigar City than in Cuba itself. That all changed in the early 1960's when President Kennedy essentially cut off all trade with Cuba.
"Since 1962, there haven't been Cuban cigars made in Tampa and there hasn’t been Cuban tobacco in Tampa and we want to change that," Newman said.
So, some 58 years later, the J.C. Newman Cigar Company is petitioning the federal government to allow them to import Cuban tobacco. It's a simple request, albeit one rife with major international implications.
"The [U.S.] government allows for coffee, charcoal, and metals from independent entrepreneurs and we've asked the government to allow us to import raw cigar tobacco from independent Cuban farmers into Tampa," Newman explained. "Just like a grape that's grown in France tastes different than a grape grown in California, the same is true for cigars and cigar tobacco."
How the Biden administration will handle J.C. Newman's request isn't clear. FOX 13 reached out for a comment, and has yet to be given a response.
"We know there's interest from consumers, from us and from farmers who are independent in Cuba and it'll be interesting to see what happens," Newman added.