An Interview with Edgar M. Cullman Sr.
Chairman of the Culbro Corporation
(continued from page 4)
Cullman: We might very well.
C.A.: Forget for a moment that the legal issues have to somehow be resolved in terms of who has the right to the brand names. Obviously, depending on how the issues are dealt with, Cuba may feel that the brands are hers, and of course the American courts have said that the brands in the United States are not Cuba's. But also there is the world market that has had the Cuban products exported to it without the effects of an embargo.
Cullman: It is a very difficult problem. I don't know when or what the answer to that will be. They came out with Cohibas, a new brand, in order to have their own brand. We own Cohiba here. We would like to work something out with the Cuban government at that time, whether it is the Cuban government, private companies, or whatever, we don't know. But I certainly think no one can say that it wouldn't be a good thing for the cigar industry.
But I don't think there is any pressure on our government to recognize Cuba. There has been no president who has felt strongly that by recognizing Cuba he's got the citizenry of our country behind him. They don't care; Castro is not a favorite for them.
I think the people in Miami put a lot of pressure not to [end the embargo], but the rest of the country is ambivalent about it. They are not very excited about Castro; they don't think much about it. So there is no pressure.
C.A.: Moving to the social ills of the smoker in general. Over the past 10 years there has been a rapid increase in restrictions on cigar smoking and a rapid decline in locations available to a cigar smoker to enjoy his smoke. It is extremely frustrating to all of us. Many of us believe that we are being treated like second-class citizens and denied our individual rights because of the unsubstantiated issue of secondhand smoke based on the research we've seen. There are many restaurants that allow cigarette smoking but not cigar smoking. We are really the ultimate lepers in our society today. What is your view?
Cullman: I think it has gotten to a point that is completely out of hand. I don't think anybody should smoke if it offends somebody next to them. There are people who suffer from various asthmatic conditions...and people around them shouldn't smoke. But I think there should be much more freedom about smoking, all types of smoking because it is a free choice. And the question of this environmental smoke has gotten to a point where just recently I was watching CNN with the statistician of the United States government, who had to decide what the economic impact of higher taxes on cigarettes would be on total revenue of the government. And in that testimony, this woman said to the Senate that, first of all, we don't think that the environmental-smoke report was significant. She said that there was no evidence that environmental smoke had any deleterious effect on other nonsmokers. And she was asked: None at all? And she said, look, people who drive small cars are at greater risk than people driving large cars. But they are not banning small cars. She said there is no reason to ban cigarette smokers from smoking outdoors or anywhere else.
We have to find some way to bring sanity back to the issue because people enjoy cigars and they should be allowed to enjoy them. People have enjoyed them for many years and it has made their lives richer. They shouldn't be told where they can smoke cigars and where they can't smoke cigars.
C.A.: What should the cigar industry be doing?
Cullman: I think the word enjoyment has to be really played up tremendously. I enjoy looking at tobacco and knowing that I made a cigar as good as this (he holds a Macanudo). And just looking at it in your hand, rolling it, is a sensual pleasure, just to have it in your hand and make it move back and forth. Also, I have never been embarrassed about smoking cigars. I have always been proud of smoking cigars. I think you've underlined that feeling within me and within a lot of other cigar smokers as to how proud we should be about smoking cigars.