Out of the Humidor
From the Print Edition:
Tom Selleck, Nov/Dec 2007
(continued from page 2)
Joseph C. Weis
Editor's note: We received a copy of this letter from Edward Makara of Montana to Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT). You all should be sending letters like this to your members of Congress:
Dear Sen. Baucus,
If this letter seems angry, perhaps it is since I certainly am. I hope it is not rude.
With all due respect, it appears neither you or your staffers are familiar with the smoking of premium cigars (i.e., cigars which are hand-rolled from whole leaves and contain no additives or preservatives). These cigars are already expensive and represent only 3.5—4% of cigar sales nationwide. The vast majority of users smoke between five and eight a week. The other 96% are machine-made stinkers which are loaded with preservatives, flavor enhancers and other additives to make them seem mild. Many of these have components other than tobacco (fillers, phony man-made "tobacco" wrappers, etc.).
I am a disabled Vietnam vet whose dwindling pleasures in life include lighting up one cigar a night (along with the obligatory libation). The average cigar I smoke costs probably in the range of $7.50 to $9.00. It is a great splurge for me (my only income is my disability benefit). Added costs would be a major disappointment. The internet is alive with stories similar to mine. Many from mom-and-pop cigar shop owners, many of whom will be put out of business.
Here come the angry parts: Didn't you folks learn anything from the luxury tax of the early '90s? The government paid out more in unemployment benefits from out of work boat workers and airplane salespersons than you collected from the tax. It was a pure example of making the left wing of your party happy by throwing them some red meat—tax the rich!
I'm sure this letter is a waste of time. When I listened to your statement, I realized there was little chance of moving you, especially after you invoked "the children." I doubt if you have ever seen a 16-year-old puffing on an $11.75 Montecristo Double Corona. I know I certainly haven't. There may be a few out there, but any number would be statistically nonexistent, and I bet you know it. This sounds like another case of class warfare politics.
Or perhaps it's "time-to-satisfy-the-health-nannies" time. Hey, wait! Both of these constituencies are satisfied. Silly me.
If you respond to me, please don't send me some pro forma warnings about the dangers of smoking or how this is a "health issue." I don't buy any of it. For your information, there is no scientific research that has ever been conducted using premium, hand-made cigars exclusively. I challenged a certain VA physician to find one. With this person's extensive medical software capabilities, not one could be found. Why do I mention this? Easy. Those who smoke machine-made cigars average five or more a day. Further, these smokers often (and in [the] case of smaller, flavored cigars, regularly) inhale. Smokers of premium cigars never inhale. I have never seen it nor heard of it in 30 years of smoking cigars, being around cigar smokers and attending cigar events.
Edward J. Makara