Out of the Humidor
From the Print Edition:
Kurt Russell, May/June 2006
I have been a Cigar Aficionado subscriber from the beginning and have attended many Big Smokes. Although I live in North Carolina, I grew up in New York and still think it's a great city. However, I have limited my trips there of late because of the smoking ban.
In the February issue, you rightfully bemoan the fact that cigar smokers are being unjustly discriminated against, even in our so-called free enterprise system. In the back of the magazine, you have ads for the upcoming Big Smokes. Why do you continue to have Big Smokes in cities that have banned smoking when there are so many that have not? Isn't it time that we all step up and put our money where our collective mouths are and send a message? Gotham isn't going to be financially crippled by such a move. However, if a fanatical ex-smoking mayor chooses to crusade against us, we should not reward him in any way. This is a matter of principle, and if we are going to publicize our thoughts about the rights of cigar smokers and encourage readers to "fight the good fight," we should be willing to back those thoughts and statements up, regardless of the "sacrifice." To do otherwise seems to border on hypocrisy.
Raleigh, North Carolina
Editor's reply: Your point is well taken. However, the flip side is equally valid.
If you abandon the battlefield, you lose. We're sticking it out here. Every time we
hold a Big Smoke, the media come to showcase how popular cigar smoking still is.
That can't be bad.
I am writing in response to your Editors' Note in the February 2006 issue entitled "No Place Left." As an American working and living in Toronto, Canada, I am facing the same issues I did while living in the United States: where to go to enjoy one of the greatest adult pleasures—a hand-rolled cigar.
Like yourself, I detest the infringement of my civil liberties of choice and wish that lawmakers, politicians and antismoking advocates would devote as much time to issues that could make a difference, such as homelessness, poverty and child abuse. Unfortunately, these issues are not the "low hanging fruit" of the day.
I do, however, have some alternatives. Having just returned from a lengthy European holiday, I can assure you that cigar smoking is alive and well throughout Europe (although the United Kingdom is working on its own legislation, similar to that of California and here in Toronto). I have always thought of smoking a cigar as taking a "mini vacation," and vacations may be all that is left for those of us wishing to enjoy one of the finest pleasures and privileges for our hard work. In London, I strongly suggest enjoying a Churchill at the American Bar at the Savoy, where Winston himself once smoked, the Knights Bar atop Simpson's-in-the-Strand, or the American Bar at the Connaught Hotel. In Paris, the bar at George V is so cigar friendly that they provide complimentary Xikar cutters. Then again, at 116 EURO for four glasses of Champagne, it seems like a fair trade.
If Europe is not in one's cards, I would strongly suggest my former home city of New Orleans. Cigars are encouraged at several fine establishments and none as spectacular as the Sazerac Bar at the Fairmont Hotel, where another famous American cigar smoker, Huey P. Long, enjoyed his. In fact, at this point, the hurricane-ravaged city would likely welcome a cigar smoker's business. Perhaps a new locale for the Big Smoke?
My point is, that while you, and other visionaries like yourself, fight to reverse this hypocritical trend of antismoking, we have options. It may seem extreme, but perhaps if enough of us divert our tourist endeavors and vacations away from cities and states that are clearly against us to those that want our business, someone will begin to take note. Please keep up the fight. I appreciate it, and I know others do as well.
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
It is always a delight to see state governments that can do things the correct way. Yesterday, a Senate-passed bill in the Virginia congress came to a screeching halt. The bill would have banned smoking in restaurants, bars and virtually all other public places. The proposed ban was sponsored by Senator J. Brandon Bell II, a Republican senator from Roanoke, who was quoted in The Washington Post as saying, "The bottom line is that we're not talking about a smoker's right to smoke indoors. We're talking about my right not to breathe in 4,000 chemicals and 60 known carcinogens that are associated with secondhand smoke." I cannot validate his statistics, but, in my opinion, that is not the point. We are talking about an individual's right to smoke. If the senator does not want to breathe in the air associated with secondhand smoke, it would be his right to avoid entering those establishments.
Fortunately, some delegates shared this sentiment. John A. Cosgrove, a Republican from Chesapeake County, said, "This is the wrong way to go about forcing this on businesses. People have to take some type of personal responsibility and not expect the state to do it for them." I applaud Cosgrove and his fellow members of the subcommittee that unanimously rejected this bill.
I believe that adults need to act as adults. If you find something offensive on television, change the channel. If you find something offensive on the radio, change the station. If you find a restaurant or bar offensive because it allows smoking, go somewhere else. It is a shame that other states cannot be more mindful of individual rights.