For 119 years, the J.C. Newman Cigar Company has been rooted in Ybor City.
Winifred Money can speak to that tradition. She's been packing Diamond Crown cigars at the family-owned factory for 42 years.
"It's the first job I started on, and I'm still on, and I'm on it every day," Money said. "I'll work until they pick me off the floor."
But the company fears newly-proposed FDA rules on tobacco products could extinguish that livelihood too soon.
"It's going to take a big fight to convince them not to regulate us out of business," said Eric Newman, president and grandson of the company's founder.
According to Newman, proposed rules aimed at protecting youth would force tobacco companies to complete 5,000 hours of testing on a new product before they could submit an application for it. That cost alone would be enough to smother business over time, Newman says.
"We're a mom-and-pop factory, and the FDA is looking at this as if it's a one-size-fits-all," Newman said.
Wednesday, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera lent his support to the historic factory. He toured the building and spoke with some of the 130 employees there. Last week, he and Gov. Rick Scott wrote a letter to the FDA asking for a compromise.
"A better way is... figure out a way to balance the safety aspect but also balance the concerns of the industry, and not have an unintended consequence that will put them out of business," said Lopez-Cantera.
One way would be to exempt premium cigar factories like J.C. Newman from the rules.
The company created a website called www.savecigarcity.com, with more information on how to submit an opinion on the proposed regulations to the FDA. There is an open comment period under way until August 8.
"Everybody needs their job. I can retire anytime I want to, but there's a lot of young people that need their jobs," added Money.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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