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The State of Cigars

Marvin R. Shanken, Gordon Mott
From the Print Edition:
Stanley Tucci, September/October 2013

Every so often, we like to step back to reflect on what’s happening in the world of cigars. The answer today is pretty simple.

The state of the cigar business is excellent. We have just attended the annual gathering of cigar manufacturers and retailers from around the country and the world, the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers (IPCPR) convention, and that’s the impression we got there.

What’s good right now?

First of all, the cigars being produced for your consumption are better than ever. Among the best companies, there is a culture of innovation and excellence that is turning out new cigars at an impressive rate, and, for the most part, producing great-tasting cigars. Tobaccos from all over the world are being incorporated into these new cigars, providing interesting and different tastes. And, it is just fun to try these creative efforts. Not all are successful, but as a veteran smoker, experimenting is part of the excitement.

Retailers are in good shape too. While the brick and mortar guys (our favorites, by the way) still struggle against the competitive disadvantage most have with the big Internet retailers, the smart ones are capitalizing on the biggest asset they have: their stores and their own knowledge. Whenever possible, these retailers are adding lounges and private clubs that bring customers into their stores to not just buy cigars, but to hang out, smoke with their friends and enjoy themselves. They also know they provide a hands-on, one-on-one experience for their customers, relaying the knowledge about cigars in a welcoming setting.

On the political and regulatory front, the industry is also more pro-active today than it has ever been in its history. The crusade to establish the notion that premium handrolled cigars are a different kind of tobacco product is making some headway with the Food and Drug Administration. The effort by Cigar Rights of America and IPCPR is bringing together all parts of the cigar universe to relay the message that premium cigars are an adult product used by adult men and women in settings that enhance their lives and give them pleasure. We’ve taken part in that grassroots effort by supporting the CRA, and by testifying ourselves in a hearing before the FDA to present the consumer attitudes about cigars.

What can you do to keep the flame alive in the cigar business? Keep up the good work is the easy answer. The drive to innovation and excellence from the manufacturers is being driven by cigar smokers—they can judge quality today better than ever before, and by taking the time to try out new products, consumers support the industry’s creativity. You can also patronize your local brick and mortar establishments; their continued success provides a community that can help regulate tobacco sales and show the naysayers that the cigar business takes its responsibilities seriously, and at the same time, gives you a place to enjoy your cigar without being hassled. Finally, the CRA still needs your support in its renewed drive to get legislation passed that will exempt cigars from direct oversight by the FDA. If you signed up for the petition last year, go to cigarrights.org and do it again. Reach out to your congressmen. Any step you take will help in the fight to preserve the pleasures of cigars which you so enjoy.

In short, the state of our cigar world is solid, but we need to stay committed to preserving its future. And that’s something we can all participate in.

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