Gov. Rick Scott's office is continuing to push back against cigar regulations proposed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Last week, Scott and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera sent a letter to the FDA, asking the agency to reconsider its proposal. On Wednesday, Lopez-Cantera toured the only cigar factory left in Tampa, the J.C. Newman Cigar Factory in Ybor City, to draw attention to the proposed regulations. He said the regulations could put the company out of business.
"The FDA didn't even exist in 1895. Is it possible that these guys and their family, over 119 years, have figured out how to produce a premium cigar at a lower price but at good quality? I believe they have," Lopez-Cantera said. "And it's their consumers, it's their customers that decide what is a premium cigar, it shouldn't be the FDA."
Tuptim Ploysawon is a quality control expert who has worked at the J.C. Newman factory for almost five years, making money to send back to her family in Thailand.
"I hope they can help us to keep this factory open forever, you know, for everybody, we don't just want to walk out on the street like we're homeless," Ploysawon said.
Bobby Newman is the third-generation owner of the factory with his brother, Eric. He said he worries about people losing their jobs -- and Tampa losing part of its heritage.
"People here, 130 employees, where would they get a job? The average age is over 50, and we want to take care of them," Newman said. "And we want to keep cigars in the Cigar City."
The FDA wants to require at least 5,000 hours of testing for new products, and impose a price floor on premium cigars. The FDA is accepting public comment on the proposed rule through Aug. 8.