Out of the Humidor
From the Print Edition:
Jimmy Smits, May/June 2005
I read the April 2005 "Editors' Note" and just had to respond. First off, what a company does has absolutely nothing to do with the Constitution. The Constitution is in place to prevent the government from acting in certain ways. And more to that, why not spew some outrage about companies that have drug tests? Surely you must be as upset that someone can't get hired somewhere if he or she fails a drug test for marijuana or cocaine.
Smoking in public a crime? Guess what: public drunkenness is a crime and the government can govern what happens on government property. Get it? The government governing?
A beach outlawed smoking? Maybe if smokers didn't leave their trash behind, we could avoid these situations. As it is, most smokers treat beaches like giant ashtrays.
The Tampa police force is right to not want smokers on its force, but more so, it has a lot of other restrictions to be a police officer, like eyesight, weight, etc.
How any of this is intruding into Americans' private lives is beyond me, other than the aforementioned drug testing. Which I agree is an intrusion of privacy, but certain companies don't want people who use drugs at home to work for them. Likewise, even though it may not affect performance, they don't want smokers, either. You have to be upset about both; remember, nicotine is a drug, otherwise you're hypocrites.
But then again, nicotine wants as few competing drugs on the market as possible, so I doubt you'll come to the aid of other drug users.
Editors' note: Mr. Finn, your logic would be perfect, if tobacco were illegal, like marijuana. But it's not. It's a legal product, sold to adults, just like some of the other products we mentioned. When private companies begin to legislate morality, we are all in trouble. And that's what the Constitution protects us from. Your other points are equally flawed, but that's part of what makes America great. We can disagree.
I just finished an e-mail to my friend Jonathan in San Francisco, when I looked outside and saw that it was snowing heavily and getting really white. Although it was 8 p.m., it wasn't truly dark, because the combination of the lengthening of the days with the snow's reflection made for a surreal light. We got about six to eight inches of snow, a rarity in Holland. I decided to treat myself to a midweek cigar. With all my winter gear on and a peaceful-burning Montecruz Negra Cuaba Double Corona in my mouth, I started my walk.
There were voices of laughing children sledge riding or throwing snowballs at each other. Some very young children stood close to their parents, experiencing this white, cold novelty for the first time in their lives. I live in a suburb modeled after traditional Dutch farmhouses with low pointed roofs that, covered in snow, display a nice color scheme of white against the blue roof tiles. The suburban parks and pedestrian walks were all covered in snow, and the sky was twilight gray and radiant. I smoked happily, walking through the gently falling snowflakes and listening to the dry snow crackling under my feet.
I watched a young girl working on a snowman, trying to get the head on a huge body. She was talking to herself that boys are so rough and should know that the head of a snowman is fragile and easily falls off. Her dad came outside and called out to me. Hey, man, you're smoking a nice cigar! I smiled and said thanks. I'm lighting up, and it's a great evening for a cigar walk. And that was a true statement indeed; it's just great to be able to do that.
This realization made me think of you, Marvin, and what a loss it is that some states in the U.S.A. have banned outdoor smoking; an oddity that Europe may possible import as well. A strange law that made me think about the fine line between democracy and populist rule. With populist rule, the rights of the many are exercised at the expense of the rights of the few. I firmly believe in the rights of nonsmokers to have a smoke-free environment. I'll be the first to defend that right. But each right also brings a duty with it, the duty to look out for those whose minority rights are infringed when a majority exercises its rights. This concept of duty draws the line between democracy and populist rule.
I associate cigar smoking with the romantic thought of gentry—ladies and gentlemen who are driven by duty, honor and hard work, and people who value a little pleasure like an evening stroll through a winter wonderland. At some point, you would think that civil thought and the fundamental notion of equality would correct the balance between right and duty. Hopefully, your fine magazine can continue to be a platform to call out for a new courtesy and mutual consideration when it comes to cigar smoking. A change should start at some point. That point may as well be now.
Nijkerk, The Netherlands
I recently decided to take up cigars as a hobby. I read your story on the cigar factories in New York City [December 2004]. Two weeks ago, I had to attend a meeting in Secaucus, New Jersey, and decided to fly up from Knoxville, Tennessee, the day before the meeting. I wanted to take your advice and visit as many of these stores as I could.
In my quick trip to the city, I was able to visit Taino, La Rosa Cubana and P.B. Cuban Cigars. It was a great experience. You should have seen all the guys you wrote about when I plopped my copy of Cigar Aficionado on the table and asked each one to sign it. Their expressions ranged from what I'm sure was "Who's this crazy Southerner?" to true pride that I would travel so far to meet them.
Thanks so much for your great advice.