The end of 1999 brought about the inevitable postmortems on the 1990s. Every pundit with an audience took it upon himself to issue a sound-bite analysis of what the decade was about. More than one writer, including some of our favorites, took the opportunity to attack cigars, using the unprecedented boom of the mid-'90s as an example of how the decade will be remembered for its decadence.
What a silly, facile conclusion. Decadence, by definition, implies decay, decline, a loss of motivation, a descent into mediocrity. Nothing could be further from the truth. If anything, the 1990s will be remembered as one of the most dynamic, prosperous times in American history. Future historians will judge the era as one of those momentous turning points, when the world moved from the post-industrial age into the high-technology era. These 10 years will rank in the chronology of the millennium on the same scale with the industrial revolution of the mid-1800s. The '90s will be remembered as a time of change and progress, in which an incredible spirit of hard work prevailed throughout the United States. Some critics can't stand that the hard work created abundant wealth, and, as a result, people spent their hard-earned dollars on a search for the good life and a sense of well being.
The search for pleasure is hardly decadent when it is a counterpoint to hard work and ambition; rather, it is evidence of a healthy, sane approach to living. Cigars were one of the natural results of people looking for ways to relax. We've always said that one of the key reasons for the cigar boom was people's search for a few quiet moments in an otherwise stressful day. That search was about time, about finding ways to stretch out reflective quiet time and separate one's self from the hubbub of the daily grind.
In addition, the cigar culture was reinforced by the incredible camaraderie that sprang up in the places and the events that catered to cigar smokers--cigar bars, cigar dinners, our Big Smokes. The search for that kind of companionship also was a sign of good mental health, a search for balance in life, and at the exact opposite of the spectrum from sloth and self-indulgence. Moreover, our Big Smokes were more than just smoke-filled rooms. They were emblematic of an egalitarian mood in America; millionaires shared stories and their cigars with truck drivers and policemen.
In other words, the cigar boom was a symbol of what was good about the '90s--friendship and democracy in the midst of prosperity. Its staying power is evidence that cigar smokers know there's more to a cigar than it just being "in." On the one hand, we are sad that the halcyon days of the boom have subsided; it was truly exciting to be at the center of such an unlikely cultural phenomenon.
But we're more than happy to see a return to sanity in the cigar market, and extremely excited about continuing to preach what we have said from the beginning: to be a cigar smoker is to adopt a lifestyle and an attitude about living that goes beyond the cigar. It's about the good life and everything that comes with it. If we have one hope for the new century, it is that the lessons of the 1990s lead more people down the path to the good life.
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