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!