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Out of the Humidor

CA Readers
From the Print Edition:
George Burns, Winter 94/95

(continued from page 10)

One observation I have while reading letters from your subscribers is the political nature of the cigar. Why is it so many of your readers bring politics into their opinions of your magazine? For example, look at the reaction to your issue featuring Rush Limbaugh on the cover. I can't believe readers would actually discontinue reading your magazine simply because of Rush. If these people are truly cigar lovers, surely they can understand the huge influence Rush has had on the cigar-smoking industry as well as subscriptions to your magazine.

And what of Fidel Castro? Holy cow! You shook some people up. As one of your readers said, "When I want politics, I'll buy another magazine." Who is talking about politics? I thought we were talking about cigars here? Who can deny the relationship between Cuba, Castro and cigars? And what of James Belushi saying women should stay away from cigar smoking? Some of these readers would prefer that you put a disclaimer on each issue: "Opinions or ideas expressed by Limbaugh and Castro do not necessarily reflect the views of Cigar Aficionado." Maybe if you feature cigar-smoking Bill Clinton on the cover, you will get some of those readers back.

If anything, a case could be made that cigar smoking pulls together people of different ideologies. What does Rush the Conservative, Clinton the Liberal and Castro the Dictator all have in common? Of course, they all love cigars. In fact, I think this is common ground to start a meaningful dialog. Let's get Rush, Castro and Clinton together in a neutral site--say a raft adrift off the coast of Florida. Buy a few good Dominican or Honduran cigars. Invite Cosby and Letterman to help break the ice and see what develops. Maybe they could end the Cuban embargo.

Come on people, lighten up. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

Kevin Grinstead
St. Louis, Missouri

* * *

Dear Marvin,

As an aficionado of cigars and pipes for nearly a quarter century (and I'm only 41 years old), I am of course dismayed with the onslaught of new legislation, restrictions and personal affronts to smokers. I differ with you and some of your readers, however, in my attitudes and responses.

Although openly hostile and publicly opinionated about many subjects, I am not that way about my smoking. I remember when--just a few years ago--my pipe and cigar were part of my public identity. Like my beard or glasses, people pointed me out as "the guy with the pipe." My entire office building is now totally "smoke-free" as are many of the restaurants and all the stores.

I refuse to make myself miserable about this unfortunate tide and I refuse to surrender any of my dignity to the whining masses. Openly fighting with "do-gooders" won't help our cause. In the same way that I deal with pests, annoyances and other inconveniences in life, I have established my own set of rules by which to live and smoke. Smoking is then easy as one, two, three. Call them, if you wish, my "smoker's standards," "puffer's principles" or "three tenets for tobacco users." They are as follows:

--I don't smoke around nonsmokers.

Our society has grown to accept public rudeness aimed at smokers. Even polite requests to extinguish are barbed. Could there ever be justification? I recall enjoying a meal at a nice restaurant. The pipe smoker at the next table finished his meal and lit a bowl of latakia tobacco, which gets its pungent aroma from curing over smoldering camel dung. The stench was more offensive than the strongest body odor I could imagine. It ruined my dinner, and I told him so. Why would I ever want to do that to someone else? "Smoking sections" in restaurants usually don't keep smoke from the nonsmoking sections. Bottom line: when indoors, at work, home or vehicle, I don't subject others to my smoke and I don't subject myself to their rudeness or whining.

--I don't debate on smoking relative to health, the media or society in general.

Like debating religion or politics, there can be no winners. Bottom line: I show support or opposition with my wallet or with my vote.

--I don't patronize businesses with double standards for smokers (prohibiting pipes or cigars while permitting cigarettes).

I don't have a problem with a "no-smoking" policy applicable to all. As a pipe/cigar smoker, however, I am particularly offended by this hypocrisy, especially when the establishment serves up food that has been described by the Surgeon General as "a heart attack on a platter."

Some of your readers may shun my principles as "rolling over and playing dead." So be it. I nevertheless enjoy my pipe on my drive to work, at lunch and on my drive home, and my cigar each evening at home. I am not harassed or tormented by my many nonsmoking friends and co-workers. As I have not infringed on their lifestyles, they do not infringe on mine.

In spite of all of the nonsmoking sentiment in our society, let's not lose sight of the forest for the trees. After all, Prohibition didn't work before and it won't work this time. We'll just have to yield a little.

Quietly and with dignity, I enjoy smoking and reading your magazine.

Alan Ira Fleischmann
Hurricane, West Virginia

* * *

Dear Marvin,

Your article about journalists who smoke cigars made me recall that in covering a war there are few pleasures greater than surviving long enough to enjoy a double corona at the end of a day of bang-bang. Now, while it's true that I am technically no longer a journalist, at least not full-time, I thought I would share with you a memorable story from the unpleasantness in Nicaragua.

Sometime toward the latter part of 1978 or early 1979, as the Sandinista revolutionaries battled Somoza's National Guard, the town of Esteli was occupied by the rebels, the National Guard bombed the town and destroyed a lot of it including the factory and warehouse of the Joya de Nicaragua cigar company. The ABC News team, undaunted by danger and with greater glory in mind, fought its way to the remains of the smoldering cigar complex and plucked from certain disintegration as many coronas as could be stuffed into the multipocketed photo vests and guayaberas that were the fashion of the journalists covering the war.

Years later, 1982 if memory serves, I was sitting in the Dallas bureau with our cigar-smoking correspondent, Charlie Murphy, when the phone rang. The man on the line was from an insurance company and was processing a client's claim. He asked if Murphy had covered the Sandinista revolution in 1978 and 1979. Yes, said Murphy. The man asked if he had been in Esteli. Yes again. The insurance man continued and finally asked if Murphy would describe the situation in Nicaragua at the time as one of "civil strife." "Oh yeah. You bet," concluded Murphy in his Oklahoman drawl. We both proceeded to guffaw.

It turns out that the claim was being filed by the owners of Joya de Nicaragua. I hope they settled for a large chunk of change, and I'm glad to see that they are once again making cigars worth insuring.

Alejandro Benes
Managing Director
The Center for Public Integrity
Washington, D.C.

* * *

Dear Marvin,

I enjoyed the trilogy of articles on the antismoking hysteria in the Autumn 1994 issue of Cigar Aficionado. Reflecting on the articles, I saw many similarities to another issue that I have been involved in: gun control. The amount of hysteria and inconsistency is similar. States pass gun bans, but let criminals go free. They crusade against guns as if guns themselves are begging people to use them to commit crimes. There is a lack of sound statistical and scientific evidence that any form of gun control would reduce crime.

As a cigar and gun aficionado, I lament the crusaders who attack us just as they did with Prohibition. (Don't people ever learn?) Banning something that you don't appreciate or enjoy does not make sense, but is a common theme in our society these days. From the "moral right" wanting to ban books and movies, curfews for teens (again taking a right from the many because of the few), banning logging, to current attacks on the tobacco industry, taking away basic individual rights is seen as a viable way to get what a special interest group wants. Whatever happened to "to each his own" and compromise?

I want to echo your call to be heard. Write your politicians. Don't wait. As Russell Baker said in his column, "It would be proper for conservatives to get concerned about the anti-smoking crusade. What it attacks...is...the right of those who are disapproved of by the high and mighty to be left alone." It is time for collective action. I am referring to those of you who are unsure or unwilling to be politically involved. If you awake to political action now because your smoking rights are being challenged, that is good, but there are many other issues that need your attention.

A quote by Martin Niemoeller (1892-1984) says it all: "In Germany they came first for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by then no one was left to speak up."

You could easily substitute various current issues into the appropriate places above to make this a modern-day story. I feel that all interested parties must stand up to the prohibitionists. If you have been neutral on some issues, I think you can see how allowing them to gain momentum on one issue snowballs into more restrictions on your freedoms. Collective action by conservatives can stop this hysteria.

Lawrence A. O'Brien
Del Rio, Texas


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