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Cuba's Cigar Summit

Cigar Lovers the World Over Descended Upon Havana in February to Celebrate the Past, Present and Future of Cuban Cigars
From the Print Edition:
The Cuba Issue, May/Jun 99

(continued from page 3)

Our trip to Cuba in 1991 seems like yesterday. I have many rich memories of that visit. But little did I know just how much the world of cigars was going to change between then and now.

At the time, however, the cigar's image had been dragged so low that people, especially in America, would not dare smoke in public for fear of a nasty look or verbal abuse. Movies featuring gangsters such as Al Capone, Lucky Luciano and Bugsy Siegel did not help raise the cigar's image. Add to that negative image the attacks of the health police and politicians bent on destroying tobacco, and the cigar smoker's world was crumbling around him.

In early 1993, the Environmental Protection Agency published a research report concluding that secondhand smoke kills 3,000 people a year in the United States. The anti-cigar fanatics had been handed a potent weapon, and it has been used successfully against us. At last count, more than 700 city, state and national laws restricting the enjoyment of cigars in public places have been passed.

That figure is astounding, but it's even more outrageous because the EPA's report was discredited last year by a federal judge in North Carolina. His ruling said: "The EPA publicly committed to a conclusion before research had begun; adjusted established procedure and scientific norms to validate the agency's public conclusion; failed to disclose important findings and reasonings; and left significant questions without answers." My editorials in Cigar Aficionado had been saying the same thing for five years.

In California, they just imposed new taxes that will increase the tax on cigars by 73.5 percent by August. This means a cigar that cost $4 this past December will cost $7 in September. Many tobacconists will go out of business. That law comes within the context of California already outlawing smoking in all workplaces and virtually all public places, including bars; some cities even ban smoking outdoors. Once a government imposes taxes and/or restrictions, don't expect any rollbacks.

Massachusetts just passed a new regulation that attempts to impose the same kind of warning labels on cigars as cigarettes, including cigar advertising.

In short, our rights have been, and are being, taken away. In many places in America, if you are dining at a restaurant and you want an after-dinner drink and a fine cigar, it's against the law. Go to the bar. Go outside. If it's raining, tough luck.

That scenario gives you some idea of the climate in which Cigar Aficionado magazine was born in 1992, and the ongoing battle against the anti-smoking forces. When people heard about the idea, the response was always the same: "A cigar magazine? You've got to be crazy." Maybe they were right.

But I'll tell you a secret. I didn't care.

Being here in Havana this morning is especially significant for me, because the idea for a cigar magazine really began right here, during my visit in 1991.

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