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An Interview with Oscar Boruchin

Owner of Licenciados and 8-9-8 Collection cigars.
Marvin R. Shanken
From the Print Edition:
Wayne Gretzky, Mar/Apr 97

(continued from page 16)

CA: In your judgment, do you think the boom in cigar sales is a fad? And if so, why? And if not, why not?

Boruchin: I don't think it's a fad. I don't spend as much time on the floor taking care of customers like I used to. But the little time I spend in the store, I see these young people, 25 to 30, coming in. I see it in my family. We have a large family. I have maybe six cousins that had children. The children are all young professionals. I don't think there's one of them that doesn't own an Elie Bleu humidor. Whether they smoke two cigars a week or three cigars a week, they like to smoke cigars. If you look at a guy who is 23, 25 and is smoking and is crazy about it, even if we lose a percentage of them, you have somebody there that has 50, 60 years of smoking ahead of them. I won't see the end of this in my lifetime. Of course, everything in life reaches a ceiling. This won't be an exception. But the cigar business is going to be a tremendous business for a long time to come. I only see one danger. That's government restrictions. Before, nobody cared, but as we grow, as the industry grows, our enemies are going to grow. So, we are going to have to face in the near future a barrage of tremendous bad publicity.

CA: Hasn't that already started?

Boruchin: Yes.

CA: There's so much disinformation about cigars; using cigarette studies to compare smoking habits of cigar smokers is one popular example. How should we fight it?

Boruchin: There's one thing they can't fight. I smoke about 10 or 12 cigars a week. I could go a month without smoking, without any problem. Cigars are not addictive. Nobody can say: "I can't live without cigars." You can be three days without smoking. You can pick up a cigar three days from now and smoke. So, the addiction that they criticize for cigarettes doesn't exist with cigars. And nobody inhales cigars; if they do it's a very small percentage. The danger of getting sick from cigar smoking is very small. They are going to have a tough time convincing the intelligent consumer of today who smokes in moderation.

CA: Do you feel that the proliferation of all the new brands on the market, some of which are not very well made or quality cigars, presents a potential problem for the industry?

Boruchin: Yes, even though I think this phase will pass. For example, look at the explosion in new tobacco stores. There're not enough cigars to go around for them. A lot of the cigars are just maybe being spread too thin. And some of those new cigars are coming in at extravagant prices. But if you look at the national brands--H. Upmann, Don Diego, Macanudo, Partagas, Bauza, Licenciados, Astral, the regular brands--they are still selling for below $5. Now you get a new cigar maker that bought tobacco last week, stole three cigar rollers and makes a cigar trying to sell it for $8 and $10. They are just ripping off the public. That's going to disappear.

CA: How would you describe, or how would you rate, the quality of these new brands?

Boruchin: Some of them are great. Some of them are garbage. Some of them are garbage in, garbage out, because they don't get the right tobacco, they don't get the right cigar makers, but they still come in to make a killing. This is not the people like us. Many people in the cigar business have been in it for 50 years. But these others just come in to get rich quick. Either they are going to try to go into the stock market and make a killing in the stock market or they are going to try to sell bad product. There is a scarcity of good product in the stores, which allows these newcomers to come in. These retailers need merchandise to sell. Eventually people will realize they are paying a tremendous amount of money for cigars that aren't worth it.

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