Yesterday news broke that the parent company of Nat Sherman, Altria issued a letter to the FDA that called for no exemption for cigars in the ongoing fight against cigar regulation. The measure prompted many on social media to boycott the company, with many retailers vowing to no longer carry the brands. For a while now on our podcast we’ve said how big tobacco goes in and fights against us which was eloquently put by David Garofalo in his most recent editorial.
The news even prompted a response from Carlos “Carlito” Fuente Jr. who wrote, “I had a serious conversation with Michael Herklots of Nat Sherman at TAA in La Romana about this very issue for support of CRA and IPCPR. He assured me that this would never happen. That he had conversations with them and Altria was just as interested in Premium Cigars as anyone, and he assured me they would support our position. I told him they were the problem but he assured me he knew everything. Guess what??? He was wrong and I was right. Unbelievable what Big DollarS and the power of fancy lawyers can do so easily to convince a premium cigar man as brilliant as Michael Herklots of something that I believe it totally against his heart. Then just Imagine how easy it can be for Big Tobacco lobbyist to buy the conscious of Senators and Congressmen with their millions. I truly feel for Michael Herklots. He is truly one of the greats, knowledgeable, and passionate Premium spokesperson and leader of our industry. I just can’t imagine how he feels being betrayed like this. But… very common and seen over and over again when Big Corps buy family businesses. One less…and One Less Heart to cry for mom and pops.“
Under fire from all sides of the cigar industry the following email was sent out to retailers by Michael Herklots that stated, “You may have read the recent editorial from Cigar Aficionado, which did not fully reflect the substance of Altria’s comments on the Food & Drug Administration’s Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) on the Regulation of Premium Cigars. I wanted to offer my perspective by providing my colleagues and friends in the industry with additional context on Altria’s comments. I urge you to read the letter, and our comments, in their entirety and come to your own informed opinion about the company’s commitment to the premium cigar industry.”
Well Mr. Herklots we have read the letter and we are aware that Jose Luis Murillo, vice president of regulatory affairs for Altria stated, “We agree with FDA that there is ‘no appropriate public health justification to exclude premium cigars from regulation.” Murillo also followed with the statement that. “We agree that ‘premium’ cigars should bear appropriate warnings that take into account unique attributes of their packaging and size.”
Altria has stabbed the cigar industry in the back, especially since there are reports such as Monograph number 9 that provide the justification for the exemption the cigar industry deserves.