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Written by Gary J. Arzt

Wednesday, 04 June 2008

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clubs and organizationssmoking bans
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Finally, the cigar manufacturers have acted in response to the draconian laws, onerous taxes and other impositions confronting them and, of course, cigar lovers all over the nation.

The Premium Cigar industry, was poked in the eye last spring by the effort to fund an odious expansion of SCHIPS (State Children’s Health Insurance Plan(s) with a ludicrous increase in Federal Taxes on cigars

Within days, meetings of manufacturers and retailers were organized. Marvin Samel of Drew Estate, Christian Eiroa of Camacho and Nick Perdomo of Tabacalera Perdomo organized a meeting at Nick’s office. Abe Dabanah, a tobacconist and owner of three Smoke Inns in Palm Beach county Florida, held a meeting of retailers at his store in West Palm Beach, FL. I attended both those meetings.

The result was ... ...

that a large delegation of manufacturers and retailers went to Washington, D.C. to speak with congressmen and staff members involved with the Ways & Means Committee, as well as the House Finance Committee. President Bush vetoed two (2) bills that landed on his desk from Capital Hill. This was not the end of the problem; merely a reprieve.

The issue will be revisited when Congress reconvenes in September!

Subsequently, a group of manufacturers, supported by many retailers, have formed the Cigar Rights of America organization (www.cigarrights.org) in an effort to confront and ameliorate the constant attacks on cigars and our ability to enjoy them…peacefully.

Cigar makers Arturo Fuente Cia, Ashton, Camacho, Cusano, Davidoff, Drew Estate, General, God of Fire (a joint venture between Fuente and Prometheus), J. C. Newman, La Aurora, La Flor Dominicana, Perdomo, Oliva, Padron, and Rocky Patel have joined the CRA as well as accessory makers Humidipak and Prometheus.

The retailers that are founding members include Thompson Cigar, Corona Cigar, Smoke Inn, Taylor’s Tobacco, Cousin’s Cigar Company, Davidoff on Madison Avenue, Up Down Tobacco Shop, Tobacco Grove, Santa Barbara Cigar, Davidoff at Columbus Circle, 8 to 8 Tobacco, Oxmoor, Smoke Shoppe, de La Concha, Cigar Mas Fino and L. J. Peretti.

These shops span the country from east to west and north to south. Many, many more will join as the effort and visibility of the organization grows. I have no doubt that a concerted effort will be made at July’s forthcoming IPCPR Trade Show, in Las Vegas, to enlist more retailers and manufacturers. CRA should certainly have a booth there.

The ‘engine’ for this effort appears to be Jeffrey Borysiewicz, owner of three (3) Corona Cigar emporiums in Orlando. Jeffrey did his homework, and researched what could be done by citizens in the face of such an unfair onslaught. Cigar Rights of America is very much a product of his drive and determination, with, of course, a great deal of input and co-operation from many, many others.

I spoke with several manufacturers yesterday (Tuesday, 3 June) with regard to their answers to several questions I had.

For instance, I asked: Do you think the industry failed itself by not separating itself from cigarettes, in the public’s eye, more than three (3) decades ago?

Nick Perdomo replied: I wouldn't say it failed itself, even though it was before my time in the industry. And at that time tobacco products were in a safer place politically. I sure wish the public and the media would not compare the dangers of cigarette smoking to the relaxing pleasures of cigar smoking. I believe that they truly have nothing in common. If you have an hour I can give you a dissertation on the vast differences of both.

On another front, XiKar, the manufacturer of the very popular lighters and cutters of that name, created The Defiance Alliance (www.defiancealliance.org ) in an effort to rally smoker support to the task of defeating all variety of regulations and laws that would restrict our rights as cigar smokers. Think “Boston Tea Party.” Well, they’re not about to dump the superb Defiance cigars that they recruited Jesus Fuego to make for them; but five percent (5%) of the wholesale price of each box does go to state organizations fighting these antediluvian attitudes. Thus, of the total number of boxes of Defiance cigars sold in Georgia, that money will go to pro-cigar rights organizations in Georgia. If, however; there is no such organization, the funds will remain in escrow. Regrettably, not serving the cause of cigar smoker rights in any way.

The problem we face in some jurisdictions can best be described as confronting the thin end of the wedge. The city of Baltimore, MD announced that it will ban the sale of individual cigars!

The ban exempts cigars that cost over $2.00 each. For the moment, those of us who smoke premium hand made cigars…601, Don Pepin, etc, are safe. The victims in this case are those who can only afford machine made cigars. And, since they will only allow the sale of these cigars in five (5) packs…the audience for those cigars; people who can least afford it, will be required to buy a pack that costs $10.00!

That gets the anti-cigar foot in the door. Don’t get confident Maryland premium cigar smokers…you’ll be next, and with the bang of a gavel your right to relax and enjoy those Rocky Patels, Tatuajes and San Cristobals will be ‘gone’ as well.

Dan Carr, General Cigar’s senior vice president of sales and marketing, told me, “We support Cigar Rights of America’s efforts to preserve the viability of the premium cigar industry and have donated funding to help get the organization underway. Having a strong consumer-based organization like CRA will better help to address local anti-smoking initiatives and give the “citizen lobbyist” (e.g., cigar consumer) a voice. We believe the organization will be successful in helping to bolster the lobbying efforts of the IPCPR and CAA, two organizations which we also support financially.”

There are other organizations, such as the International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers (formerly the Retail Tobacco Dealers Association) and the Cigar Association of America that have, in one fashion or another and to one degree of success or another, worked on behalf of the industry.

One of the most revealing responses I received, from a manufacturer, however; included this statement: ‘I will say I am personally dismayed by some of the naysayers in our own industry or those that feel we must choose between supporting the IPCPR, CAA and/or the CRA. My opinion is the more organizations working toward the defense of Cigar Smokers rights the better. We already fund both the IPCPR and CAA and greatly appreciate their efforts, however I find it disheartening that some individuals in those organizations are actually imploring us to not fund the CRA.”

A not unusual circumstance. People protect their turf. I, however; agree with the individual that made the statement; the greater the effort the better the results.

I intended to have a telephonic interview with Jeffrey Borysiewicz today, Wednesday, but we have not been able to catch up with each other. Perhaps www.cigar-review.com will have more tomorrow

NOTE: The website for Cigar Rights of America (www.cigarrights.org) is slated to go online this week.
 

Original posting about Cigar Rights of America (Part I)

Cigar Rights of America - Interview with Jeffrey Borysiewicz of Corona Cigar (Part 3)




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