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!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Anyone who enjoys cigars should be aware of the fact that anti-tobacco advocates will keep pushing legislation until tobacco is either illegal or only smokeable in your private home; so long as children are not subject to second hand smoke. I live in North Carolina, and House Bill 2, introduced on the second day of sessions this year is intended to ban all smoking in public and private places of employment. The Southeast has always been the "Maginot” line when it comes to smoking laws, where anti-tobacco advocates aim to breach, and in doing so tout smoking ban victories as the death of tobacco in the USA. 47 states have some type of smoking ban, as well as Puerto Rico. NC, SC, and VA do not have statewide smoking bans. Cigars have always been low level targets, where cigarettes were the main emphasis, however with taxes averaging (up until today) at roughly 80-cents per pack, focus will now be on cigars, and smokeless. If you live in Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina and enjoy a cigar at your favorite cigar bar, then I suggest you call your state legislators and tell them that enough is enough! Private Cigar Bar Clubs are all smokers have left to hold onto in the Southeast as a refuge place to smoke at, and those places are on the target list. Tell your legislator that a private club is not open to the general public, and its members and guests of the members are adults that enter into such establishments with an understanding of the risks associated with smoking and second hand smoke, and therefore should be left alone. Imagine doing three tours in Iraq, surviving, coming home, going to the local VFW, lighting up a cigar, and then getting tapped on the shoulder by some 23 year old from the local health department who says "sir, you can't smoke that here or in any business, and you must put that out immediately, and if you receive three of these warnings I will fine you $200.00". It’s already in the legislative process for happening in North Carolina as I type this and you read it. Call, contribute to PACs, write letters, send emails, faxes, make personal visits, do whatever you feel comfortable doing so that your voice is heard. If we hold onto the South East, we might be able to start a movement nationwide to ensure that all cigar bars are exempt from any smoking ban in all 50 states!