IPCPR Briefs Congressional Cigar Association

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The International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association hosted an informal Congressional staff briefing for CCA members and other House and Senate staffers on April 29 in the Capitol Visitors Center as part of its on-going commitment of support for the year-old organization, according to Chris McCalla, legislative director.

In May 2009, several Congressional staff members who shared a passion for premium cigars got together and created the Congressional Cigar Association (CCA). Now 150 strong and growing, the group hosts a variety of social events to educate Congressional staff and Members of Congress about the premium cigar industry as well as share their enjoyment of hand-made cigars and the camaraderie they foster.

Since the beginning, the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association has been an integral part of the growth of CCA, under the leadership of Joe Rowe, executive director, and Chris McCalla, legislative director, with the support and involvement of several retail and associate members of the IPCPR, its Board of Directors under Gary Pesh, and the Board’s Legislative Committee chaired by Ken Neumann, and the Associate Member Advisory Board.

Most recently, the IPCPR hosted an informal Congressional staff briefing for CCA members and other House and Senate staffers on April 29 in the Capitol Visitors Center. The one-hour briefing featured presentations by Rocky Patel, of Rocky Patel Premium Cigars in Bonita Springs, Florida; Gary Pesh of Old Virginia Tobacco in Warrenton, Virginia; Tiffany Rumbo of Club Humidor in San Antonio, Texas; and Jeff Borysiewicz of Corona Cigar Co. in Orlando, Florida.

More than 65 staffers showed up to learn how premium cigars are made, about the countries that produce them and the economic impact of the cigar industry in these countries, and about IPCPR retailers, which are largely mom-and-pop small businesses. In addition, open forum discussions were held, focusing on the effects of legislation on premium cigar retailers, especially tax-based Congressional and regulatory actions.

Attendees also received background information about IPCPR, premium cigars, retailers and manufacturers, and how misinformation about the health aspects of premium cigars and pipe tobacco is misleading opinion leaders and the general public.

“I can’t tell you how many times these staffers walked up to me and said ‘I had no idea!’ regarding the information we shared with them,” said McCalla. “It was further proof that we need to continue to communicate with legislators, opinion leaders and the general public in order to get our story out regarding the specialness of premium cigars and pipe tobacco. The fate of our industry could well depend on it.”

The CCA is an official “Congressional Staff Organization,” which is officially recognized by Congress.

“The quarterly cigar events that CCA hosts, along with the educational staff briefings and informal cigar socials, are all opportunities to get together and build relationships. Sure, we talk about premium cigar and premium tobacco issues, but these staffers are rarely able to get together in a semi-social way to trade opinions over cigars and they are grateful to us for providing them with the platform to do so,” McCalla said. “IPCPR will continue to support the growth of CCA and partner with them on their upcoming events.”

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Tony Tortorici
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