Posted: Dec 15, 2008 4:47pm ET
It has taken a few days for this news to sink in. I had drinks with a Mexican friend, Max Gutmann, who among his many businesses, owns the Casa del Habano franchise in Mexico. He came to that business honestly; he’s one of the biggest cigar aficionados that I know and has an extraordinary collection of Havana cigars. I wrote a blog once about getting chastised for a score we published on a Partagas Lusitania; it was Max doing the chastising and he emphasized his point by giving me a Lusitania that was one of the greatest cigars I ever smoked.
We had drinks at a midtown hotel in New York City, where there is not any expectation today that one might be able to have a cigar. You can’t. Punto final. But then he told me about the new smoking laws in Mexico which have been in effect since last summer. Somehow, I had managed to ignore that news, figuring that like many things in our South of the Border neighbor, there would be ways to get around a no-smoking law.
No such luck. Mr. Gutmann told me that smoking in public places has been virtually shut down, and in fact, you can’t even smoke in his cigar shops in Mexico City. He said the law was written with restrictions that make it one of the most draconian in the world. And, since it focused on the health of workers in the workplace, it’s hard to find any way around it. He said that among other things, the business that he used to do with restaurants around the country has dried up entirely because it is against the law for them to even offer cigars for sale.
Gutmann says there is some backlash building, and there is a chance that the law will be modified, and made less restrictive in 2009. But for now, Mexico, which was one of the last places on earth that I thought would go smoke free, is not a paradise for cigar lovers any more.
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