Why Did U.S. Customs Cut My Cigars in Half?
Another Editorial by David Garofalo
Just 1 week ago, on August 8, 2016 the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) began its control over cigars with vague and overreaching regulations (known as the deeming regulations) that will undoubtedly find its way through the courts to see if any of this is not only Unconstitutional, but not at all reasonable.
Beginning on August 8 and with the very first shipments imported into the United States we heard news of three separate containers of cigars held up and seized by FDA on the docks in the Miami heat. Why the seizure? It seems that the FDA has some new “red tape” aka requirements. They were looking for the e-mail and phone number to the factory that produced the cigars. Yes, a seizure, holding hostage the very perishable cigars that just cleared U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The very same cigars that just paid excessively high taxes, needs to go through more red tape to be released to the company who imported them and paid for them. Days in the Miami heat, baking at over 100 degrees Fahrenheit has undoubtedly hurt, if not destroyed some or all of its cargo unnecessarily.
While this was going on with the FDA, standing side by side with them was the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and another seize. This time it was the U.S. Customs, but they were not looking for email addresses; they were looking for drugs and counterfeit cigars.
Earlier this week Dominican authorities arrested a network of people who sold counterfeit cigars labeled with well-known brand names but stuffed with marijuana, cocaine and other controlled substances in the city of Santiago. A spokesman for the National Drug Directorate said Gabriel Antonio Nunez, a known drug trafficker was arrested along with six others. It is alleged that they were selling knock off brands to youths in Santiago. Made in Santiago Dominican Republic and sold in Santiago Dominican Republic. No cigars were exported or shipped anywhere, yet the U.S. Customs was apparently put on alert. These phony, drug laden cigars were hand to hand sales in the Dominican Republic only. That takes us to my cigars getting sawed in half.
This Thursday, Two Guys Smoke Shop of Nashua New Hampshire received many shipments including some of its imports from the Dominican Republic, and many of them from Santiago, from two different manufacturers and two different importers. With both of these shipments, there seemed to be a problem. “We have been receiving cigars direct from the Dominican Republic for over 30 years now; this was nothing special for us until we opened the boxes.” Bundle of 20 cigars now had 40 cigars in it and wheels of 50 cigars in it now had 100 in it. It wasn’t that I got twice what I paid for; it was that the cigars were sawed in half! Hundreds and hundreds of cigars sawed in half, some just broken in half by hand as it appears. Green tape was in each box marking them as “Examined by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.” Examined?
No explanation, no refund, no letter and no warning. No phone number or email address!
By the way, as my cigars cleared customs, immediately following their destruction, they were taxed. Incidentally, the federal tax on cigars is 52.4% of its cost per cigar. Now that they have sawed them in half and turned one cigar into two, was I to pay twice the tax? No. Now that they sawed my cigars in two and turned a good cigar into trash, did they charge me zero? No. Do they give me my federal tax back and the cost of each and every cigar including packaging cost and shipping costs? No. How about the lost sales from the very product that was destroyed? I would guess that is a long shot but why not?
So I’m sitting on hundreds and hundreds of sawed in half cigars. What can I do with them? Well maybe I can sell the piece with the cap (head) still on the cigar as a nub? Well, according to the FDA’s new deeming regulations I can’t. That would now create a new size and those cigars would have to go through the long and costly red tape, this is now a new size and I would have to prove it is substantially equivalent to the cigar they sawed in half. Actually it is not, the cigar they sawed in half was a long filled, premium cigar using well aged, whole leaf Dominican tobacco. The sawed in half cigars I have now are just trash!
Now let’s look at the other half of the sawed in half cigars. This is the side without the cap (head), the foot side of the cigar. It is already just unraveling because the head (cap) holds it together and it is no longer connected, but it is still well aged tobacco. Maybe it could be used in pipe tobacco? No, not any more. As of last week, the FDA new deeming regulation makes me a manufacturer if I combine one tobacco with the other creating a new blend of pipe tobacco. By being a manufacturer it would require lots of red tape and lots of money to go through thousands of hours of process for regulations.
What the hell can I do with these sawed in half cigars? I know, I’ll just give them away! On no… not anymore! As of last week, the FDA deeming regulations does not allow a cigar or tobacco to be given away free or sampled, punishable by a fine of $10,000 for the first offense and 3 months in jail for the 2nd offense. I got hundreds and hundreds of these sawed in half cigars… what can I do?
Maybe I should sue the U.S. Customs, Border Protection and the FDA? That shouldn’t cost too much or be much in the red tape department, I say with as much sarcasm as possible.
Why did they saw my cigars in half? They have X-ray machines, I and all my baggage have to go through them before every flight I take, and don’t the packages go through the same thing? How about the dogs, there are drug sniffing dogs, I know, I bought one and gave it to our local police department years ago because they didn’t have one, and couldn’t afford one, so I donated one. I imagine they have more than one; they could have used the dog and not sawed my cigars in half. Why did I have to investigate the reason they sawed my cigars in half and why did they not give me an email address or include a note in the destroyed boxes of cigars telling me why and what if anything I can do about it? IS it because there is nothing I can do about it?
My personal property has been destroyed and to make matters even worse, then taxed. Nothing more is being done or said about it and this is just wrong. Why did U.S. Customs cut my cigars in half?