Legislating Adult Decisions – A Word On Tobacco Regulation From Mitchel Hirsh

Several years ago Cigar King owner, Mitchel Hirsh, wrote a piece discussing the potential regulation of tobacco products. This is an ever present fear for us cigar enthusiasts, with talk of the FDA regulating the cigar industry the same way it regulates the cigarette industry, and numerous states erecting bans on smoking in various areas. I speak for myself when I say I am sensitive to the dangers of smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke; thus I can empathize with the need for smoke free areas. However, some of these legislators aim to ban smoking even in designated cigar lounges, or worse – even in your own backyard. Certain parts of California already prohibit smoking in your own backyard, even if your neighbors are okay with it. I’m all for measures that allow people to avoid smoke exposure on public grounds, but prohibiting smoking in someones own backyard or a cigar lounge is bordering upon being downright draconian.

One of the largest potential threats is the requirement for new tobacco blends to be submitted to the FDA for approval prior to them being allowed to be sold. While I do not have exact figures, I’ve heard from several individuals in the industry that it can take up to 8 years to get a new a cigarette through the FDA approval process. It’s only safe to assume that it would take a similar amount of time for cigars. This would be a colossal blow to the industry as a whole, and likely would destroy boutique manufactures entirely.

Due to the ongoing threat of laws put in place to restrict our ability to smoke even in the privacy of designated areas, I felt that this article originally written by our owner, Mitchel Hirsh, was just as relevant today as it was when it was written.

Tobacco has a long and storied history when looking into the past. George Washington grew tobacco on his family’s plantation when he was young. Thomas Jefferson grew tobacco throughout his adult life. Winston Churchill was never seen without a cigar and was said to have smoked as many as 20 a day. And many people have heard about the men of Capitol Hill retreating after a State dinner to a back room to enjoy a cigar, beverage, and political conversation. It is safe to say cigars have played a deep role in how our society was shaped and was involved, in a small way, in major decisions that have been made throughout history. Yet with all of its historical presence and importance, we sit here today fighting those on Capitol Hill from banning this pleasure. A pleasure we as adults choose to enjoy and accept the risks of. We unfairly get lumped in with cigarettes when it comes to discussions on legislation and recently the FDA took over control of cigarettes with cigars possibly being next. We fight the anti-smoking contingent in cities across the nation from taking this pleasure away from us in the form of smoking bans. We fight our own elected officials from taxing us to the point where we cannot afford this pleasure. And we are fighting a time in our economic landscape that hasn’t been seen in over 50 years. All of this adds up to be a tough time for cigar smokers everywhere. But what of these 3 things is the worst of that we face as fans of the leaf?

Looking at the 3, I lean towards the smoking bans that we are seeing pop up nearly every day across the country. Cigars are not a habit for most enthusiasts but a hobby. We don’t crave the nicotine, we crave the experience. For most cigar smokers, it is about the time you spend with the stick of your choosing, not the fix that cigarette smokers look for. It is about the bonds you make with friends and family over the simple pleasure of relaxing with a cloud of gray silk rolling off your lips. Unfortunately, the experience we look for is being taken away from us every day, by people who unfairly lump us in with cigarettes. How do we combat this unfair treatment? The obvious answer is to vote and make sure your voice is heard by your local government official. But let’s look at some of the other things that are happening that may not be as obvious.

First and foremost in the battle to enjoy our hobby is the creativity of your local tobacconist. Here in Arizona, you are legally allowed to enjoy tobacco products indoors at an establishment that sees 51% or more of its revenue from tobacco or tobacco related products. This means cigar lounges are a perfectly legal way to sit back, relax with a stick, and let your worries disappear with the smoke. Cigar stores throughout Arizona have expanded their lounge space to accommodate more brothers and sisters of the leaf. They’ve added more seating and televisions along with offering a diverse selection of sticks to attract even the most discerning of palettes. Some host cigar tastings by inviting manufacturers in and allowing us to try new products, while others partner with restaurants and host cigar dinners. Many shops offer memberships that allow you to store cigars on site and provide additional benefits to those who choose to partake. And while many people still enjoy the solitude of smoking on their patio using the experience as a time of reflection, there is much to be said about having a local spot to enjoy a cigar and make new friends.

The second way to combat this trend is to support your local tobacconist. Running a shop that offers lounge space, televisions, knowledgeable employees, and a vast selection takes the support of locals. While it admittedly can be slightly more expensive depending on local taxes, the benefit of having somewhere comfortable to relax and enjoy a cigar can be invaluable. Ask a fellow cigar enthusiast in Santa Monica, where it is illegal to even smoke on your own patio if within 25 feet of a neighbors window, door, or ventilation. Can you imagine not being able to smoke on your own property, a space you spend your hard-earned money on and should be able to do as you please with? Or how about New York, where they have banned smoking in all outdoor areas such as beaches, public plazas, and parks, including the famed Central Park. Statistics show that nearly 80% of the population of the U.S. is now covered under anti-smoking laws. Some of these laws are more stringent than others of course, but you can see the effect they are having across the country. And you can be sure there are more cities and states that haven’t yet enacted these laws that are looking at and drafting them right now. A cigar lounge offers a way to escape these laws that have tied the hands of many people and legally enjoy a cigar.

The last way to combat this trend is to make people aware of the differences of cigars and cigarettes. Tobacco is a cause of cancer and we cannot argue that. However we can argue the validity of studies that unfairly lump cigars and cigarettes together. The biggest difference between the 2 would be the simplest: a cigar uses natural leaves throughout without additives while a cigarette uses paper to wrap it together as well as additional chemicals which can have an adverse effect on us. But there are many other differences that go undocumented every day. As we talked about before, a cigar is about the experience you have with it. They provide a great way for someone to unwind and let go of the stresses of everyday life. They allow someone to spend time with their thoughts or make connections with people they may have never without the bond of the cigar. Many great decisions in history have been debated in company with a cigar. It is common to celebrate major life changes with a good cigar, such as weddings and children being born. And while those things only happen to people a handful of times in their life, it is a common sight to see a new father light up with his friends and family. Studies have also shown that cigar tobacco can have a positive effect on major diseases. Scientists are using tobacco to combat the effects of Alzheimer’s, dementia, and even some forms of cancer. This is not to say that smoking a cigar will stop any of these things from happening, it does show that tobacco isn’t the evil drug some people make it out to be.

We live in a time when smoking is becoming less and less accepted in society every day. We get the dirty looks, the condescending comments, and the ire of the general public. We are treated differently even though we are adults who have the right to make our own informed decisions. Yet that right seems to be disappearing at a rate that can be tough to comprehend. Hopefully soon we will see people open their eyes and minds to the fact that cigars are not cigarettes and we too can be once again accepted for the hobbies for which we choose to partake.

– Mitchel Hirsh


What can you do to help?

The best course of action is to remain steadfast in demanding reasonable treatment of the cigar industry and community, and too continually stress the difference between cigarettes and cigars. Smoking is harmful, and it can be argued that some restrictions are reasonable, but what the FDA has proposed in recent bills in regards to cigars is not. Write your representatives and congressmen. More importantly, help support the CRA, the Cigar Rights of America. They’re a group of manufactures and enthusiasts alike fighting to gain fair and reasonable treatment for cigar smokers and manufactures everywhere. You can help by visiting http://www.cigarrights.org/, no pitchfork necessary.

About Joseph Carroll

I am an enthusiast of all things cigars - from the experience of smoking, to becoming engrossed in their culture. In an age increasingly dominated by technology and automated manufacturing, I consciously strive to retain an appreciation for pursuits based around concepts like craftsmanship, passion, and artistic expression. I believe that quirks and flaws are often what gives art its beauty. I aim to embrace both the good and the bad in my writing, as I think both sides of the coin are necessary to capture something in its entirety. In my spare time I enjoy reading, exceeding speed limits, and nursing my fetish for all things Koenigsegg Automotive.
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