Good News For Cigar Smokers
… And cigar aficionados could use some. With the economic crisis causing many state legislatures to consider tobacco tax hikes, smoking bans continuing to gain popular support, and bad stock market news making us all a little more conscious of the price of our favorite stogies, we need to hear that something is going right in the little world of those who love premium cigars. So, without further ado, here are some recent developments in the world of cigars that smokers can take to heart.
1. Smoking bans may be getting more popular–but they’re also getting more reasonable and flexible. More and more existing public-smoking smoking bans are being modified, and new bans being written, so as to include clear exemptions to the laws, so that cigar lovers are still allowed to light up in some bars, cigar lounges, casinos, or other places, depending on local policies. For an example, look no further than Laguna Beach–yes, the same Laguna Beach that passed one of the toughest anti-smoking laws in the country back in 1993. The local City Council has recently decided to start allowing smoking again at tobacco shops and lounges. This is good news for those who love to have a smoke with like-minded cigar lovers, and it’s also good news for area tobacco shops, which can now offer customers just such an experience (and reap the benefits in increased customer interest, retention, and loyalty). Nebraska is considering such an exception to its own smoking ban,
And in any case, the tendency toward greater regulation of public smoking isn’t universal. North Dakota’s state colleges and universities have just (as of mid-March) rejected a proposed smoking ban.
2. The Cuba embargo, which has prevented access to high-quality Cuban smokes since 1962, may just be headed for the chopping block. The magazine Cigar Aficionado devoted its January 2009 cover story to arguing for a more nuanced trade relationship between the United States and Cuba. Recently-declassified documents show the US making repeated overtures to Cuba and vice versa, and this newly-available history gives policymakers a map for future negotiations. In 1977, for example, Jimmy Carter nearly normalized US-Cuba relationships (talks foundered over Cuban troops stationed in Africa), and he later expressed regret that he’d scuttled this plan. Republican presidents such as Ford also considered the option. The embargo, as these documents remind us, is not a fact of nature.
And as Castro ages, even hard-line anti-Castroists in the US Congress are beginning to reconsider the effectiveness of a policy that, after all, has never succeeded in its announced objectives. And as this article goes to print, President Obama has just signed into law an omnibus spending bill that includes several little-noticed policy changes toward Cuba. Cuban-Americans are now allowed yearly visits to the island (they were previously limited to one visit every third year), and restrictions on business travel have also been somewhat eased. Is this a step toward free trade with Cuba? With a major inter-American summit looming in April, many observers are wondering whether Obama may be planning to announce further liberalization.
3. Another sign that lawmakers have grown a bit more sympathetic to smokers, despite budget squeezes that make users of tobacco and other “nonessentials” an attractive possible source of revenue, comes from Maryland. This state’s cigar-sale restrictions were among the toughest in the country; most notably, they don’t allow the purchase of single cigars. That’s right: you can buy boxes, but not cigars. The rationale for this odd law, which passed in November of 2008? Well, the local constabulary were worried that high school kids would use hollowed-out single cigars to smoke marijuana. So the state legislature banned the sale of single cigars.
Aside from the fact that, on the same logical grounds, you could justify banning just about any form of cigar or cigarette–as well as hollow tube-shaped objects generally–this goofy law has faced challenges on constitutional grounds. The state legislature, facing lawsuits, is looking at getting rid of the restriction on single-cigar sales. Chalk up another victory for common sense.
4. Recession or not, tasty is still tasty.