Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Three Branches For A Reason

Written by: J. Glynn Loope, Executive Director, Cigar Rights of America

The reason our forefathers created three branches of government with checks and balances was to provide a remedy for improper actions by either the legislative, executive or judicial branch. As cigar enthusiasts, we consider "improper action," as the over regulation of the ability to enjoy a legal cigar.

Lately, various governments have enacted smoking bans without proper thought and analysis on the economic and social impacts. This has spurred many cigar enthusiasts and business owners to take their fight to court - a costly process on all accounts.

In Louisville, Kentucky a case is being heard in court on the perceived unconstitutional exemption to the smoking ban by the world famous race track, Churchill Downs, and the impact to bingo halls, where smoking ban enforcement has lead to over 100 citations and even fines to their operators.

Just a couple of states west, in Dallas, Texas, the owner of Illusions bar is preparing his case against the recently expanded non-smoking ordinance that passed with a 10-5 vote by the city council. Eddie Bonner, owner of Illusions, says that "since Illusions does not have a patio and doesn't have the space to build one, ‘the city is putting me at an unfair competitive disadvantage against like businesses."

As everyone can now see, courts have now become the battleground for 'one of life's simple pleasures', which, sadly, include the enjoyment of a fine (and very legal) cigar. Because smoking bans are, literally, the result of 'flavor of the month' politics, it's going to take time to see where all of this goes. So, for now, this means one thing: Now is the time for cigar enthusiasts everywhere to fight for our freedom!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Can High Cigar Taxes, Smoking Bans and Packaging Restrictions Wipe Out an Entire Industry?

Written by: Jeff Borysiewicz, CEO of Corona Cigar Company

You be the judge...

Glasgow, Scotland, the largest city in Scotland and the third largest city in the United Kingdom. Home of four world class Universities, spectacular Cathedrals, four professional football clubs, whisky distilleries and is the UK's largest retail center after London. In a city of this size, you would think you could find a cigar shop...or can you?

Below is an article from the Scottish newspaper The Sunday Herald:

LAST SMOKERS' PARADISE CLOSES - An era ends as Herbert Love, Glasgow's only remaining old-school gentleman's smoke shop, shuts down

IT WAS the commodity that transformed a village north of the Clyde into the second city of the empire and brought untold wealth and status to Glasgow's merchant class.

Tobacco may have forged the expansion of Scotland's economic powerhouse, but yesterday saw the passing of the trade's remaining vestiges with the closure of the last independent tobacconist in Glasgow.

It was an unspectacular send-off for Herbert Love, a musty, mahogany-brown emporium tucked away in St Vincent Place for more than 100 years, as the last customers stocked up on favoured blends, cut-price pipes and cigar-filled humidors, muttering final farewells to the staff.

The Smoking Kills stickers plastered on to the Royal Doulton antique tobacco jars, gleaming in sapphire blue and bearing the names of exotic mixtures, offered an obvious clue to the demise of the Glasgow tobacconist. Herbert Love, which traded as Murray Frame for 80 years, could no longer withstand the introduction of the Scottish smoking ban.

Before the restrictions, regular customers, including Billy Connolly and Donald Findlay, enjoyed a leisurely puff in the lounge downstairs.
One devotee, Brian Pulle, was forced to pop in and out of the rain yesterday to sample some of last pipe blends on the shelf.

The 50-year-old from Clydebank said: "I know it's an unhealthy pursuit, but so is walking across the road these days. You don't get this kind of service anywhere else anymore, so I'll be very sad to see it go."

Jim Graham, a 63-year-old smoker of American black cherry and plum tobacco, added: "There were at least nine or 10 tobacconists in Glasgow at one time, but they're gone now. A real shame. I've stocked up on about 150 cigars, so that'll keep me going for a while."

Don Higgins, secretary of the Association of Independent Tobacco Specialists, said regulations had undoubtedly damaged the specialist trade.

"It is extremely difficult for independent shops to survive in a culture of anti-smoking, and the Scottish parliament has been particularly strong-minded about it," he said. "It's terribly, desperately sad that the last one has gone, because Glasgow had a special reputation in the tobacco trade."

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Glasgow was one of the biggest tobacco producers in Britain. Alexandra Parade was known as Tobacco Road, with four factories producing cigarettes, cigars and pipe tobacco, including the Wills plant, still an East End landmark.

You can view the entire article at

My wife and I used to frequent Love's whenever we were in Glasgow (she is from Glasgow). It is a shame that excessive tobacco taxes, smoking bans and packaging regulations drove this 100 year old "mom and pop" cigar shop out of business. You now have to drive to the city of Edinburgh to find one of the last remaining cigar shops in all of Scotland.

As a fellow cigar store owner, I see the very same things that put Love's cigar store out of business threatening the cigar industry here.

In the UK, cigars are taxed at one of the highest rates in the world.
The price for a hand made cigar in the UK range from around 8 pounds for a corona size cigar to 28 pounds or more for a Churchill size or Limited Edition cigar. That is roughly $16 for an entry level smoke! With prices this high, it is no wonder that hardly anyone can afford to smoke cigars in the UK.

In America, the cigar industry is currently threatened by the proposed expansion of SCHIP. The SCHIP bill would impose a 52.988% Federal tax on the wholesale price of cigars. (That is a 6,000% increase of the current cigar tax.) What makes matters worse is that in 47 states, there is a state tobacco tax that is applied on top of the federal tax. (Yes, they actually tax a tax!) And then when you go to buy a cigar, you are taxed again with a state and county sales tax. (Yes, a tax on top of a tax on top of a tax!) ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!

If Americans don't speak up and let our legislators know that these taxes are are unfair, nothing will change. I urge you to pick up the phone and call your Senators and Congressmen and let them know you oppose the SCHIP cigar tax. I also urge that you join the CRA, so we can have a united front to defend the rights of cigar enthusiasts. Join today!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Australian Case Study on the Impact of Taxation and Legislation of Cigars

Australian cigar writer Samuel Spurr reports on the impact of taxation and legislation on the Australian cigar industry.

"The Australian cigar community faces some of the most stringent government legislation and taxation in the world. It continues to push ahead though, despite such intervention. Current American freedoms must be appreciated and fought for, for the sake of fellow cigar lovers around the world. The threat posed by anti-smoking groups and government taxation and legislation must not be slept on."

Imagine a government tax of US$122 per pound of tobacco. Attendees at events such as Cigar Aficionado’s ‘Big Smoke’ and the IPCPR’s annual trade show can no longer enjoy cigars as smoking is illegal at all indoor venues. Tobacco advertising is banned, and manufacturers cannot sponsor corporate, community or sporting events. Cigar enthusiasts cannot light up in their favourite cigar shop, whilst smoking at some public parks and beaches is banned.

This is not an imagined scenario for Australian cigar suppliers, retailers and consumers. This is current state of tobacco taxation and anti-tobacco legislation and all involved with premium tobacco have had to deal with such government taxation and legislation for the better part of the last 20 years.

Australian cigar smokers have paid a premium price for cigars for some time. Australia’s federal tobacco tax is approximately AUD$300 per kilogram or USD$130 per pound. This dollar amount is not static, instead rising twice per year in line with inflation. Local consumers have been ‘conditioned’ for many years to the retail price of premium tobacco. Because of this ‘conditioning’ Australian cigar smokers continue to purchase cigars and the taxes have not had a ‘loss of business’ impact.

Australian retailers report that some clients may purchase less in terms of volume due to budgetary constraints however as a rule they will spend what they are comfortable with. For the American cigar retailer, proposed taxes such as SCHIP may have a ‘loss of business’ impact as American cigar lovers are not prepared for such immediate price hikes.

Anti-tobacco Legislation
It can be argued that government intervention through legislation has had and will continue to have the biggest impact on cigar enthusiasts. Australia has taken some hits and has survived but if similar legislation continues to be introduced in the US, losses can unfortunately be expected.

Australian distributors, retailers and consumers would agree that the biggest impact has been the loss of entertainment venues which allow indoor smoking. Indoor smoking bans introduced across Australia in 2007, made no exemptions for cigar lounges or tobacconists. Despite this, cigar lovers continue to find pubs or bars which provide sheltered outdoor facilities that comply with new legislation. Australia’s predominantly temperate climate generally allows for year-round outdoor smoking – something not true of some parts of North America.

The Future
Despite the impact of legislation and taxation, the Australian cigar industry is looking forward. Cigar events continue to be well-attended, doing much to improve the humble cigar’s public perception. Preparedness is however, still a strong requirement for those commercially involved with cigars. Established retailers continue to prosper but new retailers without a loyal customer base may struggle to be viable. Those retailers that remain are innovative and maintain the highest of customer service standards.

The Australian cigar community faces some of the most stringent government legislation and taxation in the world. It continues to push ahead though, despite such intervention. Current American freedoms must be appreciated and fought for, for the sake of fellow cigar lovers around the world. The threat posed by anti-smoking groups and government taxation and legislation must not be slept on.

Samuel Spurr is Australia’s premier cigar writer, contributing to European Cigar Cult Journal and a number of cigar industry publications. His blog, Inlumino Cigar News Australia, keeps Aussie cigar smokers up to date with news, events and reviews.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

CRA Members Write Letters To Boston Mayor Menino


We have received an overwhelming number of letters to Boston Mayor Menino by CRA Members. You have united to voice your opposition to Mayor Menino's proposed smoking ban. We would like to share some of these letters with you.

Please write to Boston Mayor Thomas Menino (mayor@cityofboston.gov). His proposed smoking ban goes to vote on November 13, 2008. Time is of the essence. Please copy your letter to info@cigarrights.org so that we can share your letter with your fellow cigar enthusiasts.

You can also call Boston Mayor Menino at (617) 635-4500 and let him know that you are a cigar enthusiast and that you oppose the proposed Boston Smoking Ban.

Click Here to read letters that CRA Members have sent to Mayor Menino...

Monday, October 27, 2008

Why We Fight

October 27, 2008

"...we will not go down without a fight. We will not be that minority group that disappears because people choose not to understand us. It's really just that simple. This is why we fight."

By Ryan Evans

At the end of last summer, I had the opportunity to attend the Cigar Freedom Tour down in Milwaukee. While I am a cigar nut and wouldn't have missed this for the world, a much more important aspect of the event became very apparent to me while I was there.

We heard impassioned speeches from state legislators and cigar shop owners who oppose smoking bans - but we also heard very impassioned speeches from the "legends." These are the owners of the cigar manufacturers who came up to not only meet us, but to talk about the assault on our freedoms. Many of them are immigrants who talked about their families fleeing persecution and communism so they could run their businesses and live the American dream.

But they also talked about how the American dream that they worked so hard for is being eaten away and the very things that they fled from are now being used against them once more.

I don't recall for sure, but I'm pretty sure that Ernesto Reyes jr. said that we cannot be known as the only minority group to go down without a fight, And you know what? He's right!

After the speeches, I spoke to one of the state senators who attended the event and also gave a great speech - cigar in hand - about our rights and freedom in Wisconsin and how Wisconsin is different. We discussed the event and why it was so important. The event was a cross-section of people. You could not identify them by race, color, creed, age or economic status. There were no common elements in the crowd save for one: the love of a lifestyle that is under attack. Everybody there - and I would dare to say that there were as many women as men - had a cigar in one hand, a drink in the other, and a big smile on their face as they made their way through the crowd and talked to people around them. This was truly an event that drew people who loved the lifestyle. But it also showed that there is a delicate situation here. Cigar smokers are a small group of Americans who come from all walks of life. Though small, their freedom should not be allowed to fall through the cracks.

We cannot let this happen!

History has shown that people fear, and often times hate that which they fail to understand. Care to talk to an anti-smoking advocate and ask them about the people who would attend a cigar smoking event? I would bet that they have no idea what happens there or why there was such a large draw.

They do not see why so many people from so many different backgrounds and classes would come together to enjoy one another's company. They fail to see the love of the thing - and that scares them.

So this is where we stand. We are fighting for the love of a thing - something that binds us together into a group of seemingly unrelated people who simply share the common enjoyment of a smoke. Is this really that different than other minority (or even majority) groups? Is this different from religion? From race fans? From car collectors? No, it's not.

We will not go down without a fight. We will not be that minority group that disappears because people choose not to understand us. It's really just that simple. This is why we fight.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Boston Smoking Ban


BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS, October 10, 2008– Although the Boston Public Health Commission's recommendations to further local smoking bans are getting a good reception at City Hall, cigar smokers strongly protested the closure of cigar bars.

According to the Boston Globe, there are only cigar bars that would be affected, but Cigar Masters co-owner Brett Greenfield pointed out that "there aren't people who are in there who are expecting not to be around second-hand smoke."

The city's director of public health, Dr. Barbara Ferrer, says she wants to "de-normalize" smoking and "Ideally, I'd like to say by 2025 that we don't have anybody smoking."

However, the argument made by the cigar bars is receiving some interest. Mayor Tom Menino told the Globe, "I understand they've been there for a while and I want to work with the cigar bars. I cannot, during these tough economic times, prevent them from doing business."

The restrictions, which face a final vote by the commission's seven-member board on Nov. 13, also would ban smoking on outdoor patios at restaurants and other businesses and prohibit tobacco sales on college campuses and by all drug stores in the city.

Los Angeles Smoking Ban


"Things start in Los Angeles and California and spread across the nation. That's why we're here."

That's why CRA Executive Vice President Jeff Borysiewicz, owner of the Corona Cigar shops in Orlando, Florida, flew cross-country on October 16, 2008 to join a team of cigar manufacturers, store owners and supporters at a face-to-face meeting with Los Angeles Councilman Tom LaBonge and anti-tobacco activists over two new smoking bans proposed by other Council members.

The first is a ban on smoking in outdoor dining areas of restaurants, proposed by Councilman Grieg Smith and the second is a motion by Bernard Parks to "enact a second-hand smoking law effective throughout the City which would limit public exposure to secondhand smoke in all public areas and common areas where people congregate including, but not limited to, but not limited to indoor and outdoor businesses, hotels, parks, apartment common areas, restaurants and bars, and beaches." This latter motion would essentially criminalize about 384,000 citizens of the City of Los Angeles for using a legal product: tobacco.

The Smith motion threatens the relatively few restaurants which still allow smoking outdoors, since smokers make up only 14% of the population of Los Angeles County. If the Parks motion were to become law as drafted, his ban would:

  • Eliminate smoking in all cigar shops in the City of Los Angeles
  • Eliminate smoking on the streets of Los Angeles
  • Eliminate smoking in all outdoor areas, such as the patios or lawns of hotels
  • Eliminate cigar smoking in outdoor areas of restaurants
  • End cigar events as we know them in the entire City of Los Angeles
  • Eliminate smoking in common areas of apartment buildings

We will continue to monitor this issue and update our website.