One tobacco company is calling foul over the passage of a bill that would make flavored cigar wrappers illegal. Ron Tully, vice president with Louisville, Ky. Based National Tobacco Company, says it was their Illinois based competitor that pushed the bill and wants to see National Tobacco out of the marketplace.
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“Our issue with the bill is really that [it has] been driven by one of our major competitors in the Illinois market, a company called Republic Tobacco and they’ve been fairly aggressive in coming after us in a number of different ways either through the courts or through the commercial arena and most recently through the state legislature.” What’s worse, according to Tully, is that the proposed law would see Illinois lose revenue to the tune of $7.5 million per year. “These cigar wrappers are subject to the excise tax in the state,” Tully said. He says he sat through several debates in Springfield and can’t understand why lawmakers would purposely lose out on much needed revenue. “We’re cutting services to the bone but we can afford to give up $7.5 million this year and maybe $58 million over the next ten years in this category,” Tully observed, “it seems crazy.”
Tully believes the governor should veto the bill and wait until an FDA opinion on flavored tobacco wrappers come out this summer. He says he is very aware of the concern about tobacco wrappers and underage or paraphernalia use, but says if that’s the case for a ban, why not ban all flavored tobacco products. In the case of paraphernalia use, in making what pot smokers call a “blunt,” consumers can simply buy a flavored or unflavored cigar, pull out the tobacco and stuff it or re-roll it with marijuana. Tully adds that no other state has banned the product. Republic Tobacco chairman Don Levin says his company knows nothing about the bill. “We’ve had conflict with [National Tobacco] over many years and frankly we’ve tried to settle it many times,” Levin said by phone. “I don’t know why [Tully] said that. I don’t think there’s anything to back it up.”