Don't take the cigars out of Cigar City. That's the message workers at the J.C. Newman Cigar Company in Ybor City are hoping to convey. They hoisted a banner outside of Tampa's last remaining cigar factory that says, "Save this Factory, Take Action Today".
The Federal Drug Administration published proposed regulations on the cigar industry. In a release, the Newman Company says complying with those regulations as drafted would be so cumbersome and cost prohibitive, it may force the company to close Tampa's last remaining cigar factory.
Tuptim Ploysauom has worked for the Newman Company since her former employer, Hav-A-Tampa shuttered it's doors. She admits, she's nervous.
"Oh my God, I don't want to think about that," said Ploysauom. "I have to support my mom. My family in Thailand, and, you know, I got a lot of bills to pay."
J.C. Newman President and third-generation owner, Eric Newman, says the FDA could strip Tampa of its rich cigar history.
"Can you imagine taking the wine out of Napa Valley, or the French out of the French Quarter?" asked Newman. "Under the proposed regulations, that is exactly what the FDA will do."
Newman's brother Bobby says if the factory is forced to close, employees won't be the only ones affected.
"You're talking about the people that make the cigar bands. The people that make the cellophane. People who make the boxes. People who make the packs," said Bobby Newman. "It also affects UPS. We are one of UPS' largest customers in Tampa."
The Newman Company has set up a web site for the public to chime in on the FDA's proposed regulations. That site is www.savecigarcity.com.