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Sinking In

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.
Christian Aliperti December 15, 2008 7:52pm ET
That's tough to hear Gordon as I will be visiting there soon. Do you know Moises Vargas as I will be visiting the Casa in Tijuana and don't know much about the place and it seems that it's one of the few cigar friendly areas.
Steven Marsh Phoenix, AZ December 17, 2008 4:08pm ET
Gordon~Just got back from Vancouver and it is the exact same story. La Casa del Habano Vancouver has a very nice lounge that can¿t even be used. What shame! This is like a bad virus¿
Antony Norris Australia December 18, 2008 11:07am ET
Gordon, are you aware of the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control? It's been developing over the last 8-9 years, the majority of the world's countries are signed up to it and a majority have now ratified it (therefore implementing it). Mexico was an early signee and ratifier.

I'm actually a contractor for the WHO for this particular convention, which as a cigar smoker for over 15 years makes me a bit of a turncoat I suppose, lets just say I see both sides of the argument.

The US are signed up to the convention, but have never ratified it, but that hasn't stopped them implementing the measures, and actually going further than the convention requires in some cases.

If you want to see the future of smoking in the world look to as this is where it's all coming from. I'm surprised so little has been reported on the root of these bans, this is a worldwide policy juggernaut, don't assume you're just facing local city and state law changes, it's bigger than that, much bigger.
Stephen Malan Las Vegas NV January 4, 2009 12:56am ET
I just got back from a vacation in Cancun and I spent some time in the La Casa Del Habano Cancun and people were smoking in that shop.

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