New FDA rules target Tampa's cigar industry

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Locally made cigars and e-cigarette liquids are facing a new level of regulations starting Monday that could hurt business. The FDA launched a new set of rules requiring manufacturers of tobacco products to submit their products for safety testing and federal approval.

At Tababero Cigars in Ybor City, a small group of cigar rollers works diligently every day to hand-roll their special blend of cigars, made with tobacco products from Central and South America.

Under the new regulations, each variety of cigars, as well as each size they are sold in, would have to be submitted to the FDA for approval to continue selling the products.

Yanko Maceda, owner of Tabanero Cigars, expects submission fees to cost between $1,400 to $2,200 per submission.

"You've got to keep in mind that besides the [submission] fee, you've got to send 1,000 cigars per size, and that is money for a small guy," he said.

With the large sample size requirement and high cost of getting approval, Maceda fears the new rules will put locally owned cigar shops out of business.

"Being a small company, a small factory, the things that we can do are limited. It would be hard to compete with the big guys," said Maceda.

E-cigarette shops across the country are also coming under fire under the new regulations. Many shops that make their own liquids chose to release new blends prior to the August 8 launch of new regulations. hoping to avoid having to meet the new requirements.

"We've been in the lab mixing up new flavors for the last month or so, and we have been releasing them as soon as we can," said Mike Synychak, co-owner of Tampa Vapor.

The new FDA rules also ban E-cigarette companies from selling to minors and giving away free samples. It's a change that could make it difficult to market to new customers.

"We're not able to send out free samples to other companies that might be potential buyers of our juice. It makes it very difficult for us to actually sell our product to people that aren't aware of it," said Synychak.

Tampa Vapor is now asking customers to pay just 50 cents for the day to sample products.

As a member of the American E-Liquid Manufacturing Standards Association, Synychak says members of the e-cigarette industry have been regulating themselves for about three years, including requirements for a clean lab to make juices and child resistant caps on bottles.

He said it is not reasonable to put the same strict regulations of the cigarette industry on smaller, up and coming business, and he, along with other small companies, plans to fight the new regulations in court.

"These regulations, the way they're written now, do not seem fair at all. It's putting the small business out of business," added Synychak.