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The Wrong Enemy

Marvin R. Shanken, Gordon Mott
From the Print Edition:
Gina Gershon, Sep/Oct 98

It's a sad thing to see someone so desperate that they even attack their natural allies. That's our first reaction to the early summer Winston cigarette ad campaign that asked, "Why Do Politicians Smoke Cigars While Taxing Cigarettes?" That's a low blow based on some misguided analysis that the tax portion of the cigarette legislation in Congress is a form of class warfare. But the ad is just downright stupid. It goes a long way toward closing off one of the avenues to compromise with the nonsmoking public. But if the cigarette industry wants to take the gloves off, so be it.

We have never closely associated premium hand-rolled cigars with cigarettes. We believe the two products are as different as night and day, and we have said repeatedly that a product made for occasional enjoyment and relaxation in moderation bears no resemblance to a product designed to be smoked in large quantities. But we have suggested that there is common cause among the two industries because the antismoking movement is after tobacco, and smoking, in any shape or form. In that context, the battle to preserve the right to smoke in designated areas, even if it requires special ventilation, is a fight that if won will benefit every smoker in America. Furthermore, the broader issue of individual rights, whether in regard to smoking, drinking, eating or choosing a particular lifestyle, is one that should concern every person in the United States. That fight is being waged on many fronts, but the smoking issue is a key element in the debate about what constitutes a free society.

The cigarette industry finds itself in the current situation for reasons that are hard to dispute. According to documents presented in recent court cases, at least one major cigarette company considered underage smokers as a likely market for its product. Those same documents also show that some cigarette company executives apparently had more knowledge about the harmful effects of smoking, and the addictive nature of nicotine, than they ever admitted, and in some cases, apparently denied knowing. Even though the cigarette industry continues to deny some of the charges, it has left the door wide open for its critics to attack it on moral and ethical grounds.

The premium hand-rolled cigar industry is different. It has never marketed its products to kids; in fact, most cigar executives today still believe their primary audience is age 40 and older. Cigar tobacco isn't manipulated in any way; the leaves are aged, cured and then rolled. And this magazine has been active in educating people about the proper way to smoke--without inhaling and as a way to relax. Furthermore, surveys on our Web site,www.cigaraficionado.com, show that 92 percent of cigar smokers smoke one cigar or less a day, and 71 percent smoke three or less a week; that's hardly the profile of a product that fosters addiction.

In short, businesspeople, blue- and white-collar workers, professionals, both men and women, and yes, politicians including the president, enjoy cigars. But it's not at the expense of cigarettes. It's because they know cigars are an adult pleasure that they, as adults, made the decision to enjoy. Like all smokers today and especially cigar smokers, they understand the risks, but they believe that at the level most people smoke--less than one cigar a day--the risk is acceptable. In the long run, by trying to tarnish the image of cigars, the cigarette industry is only hurting itself and alienating a potential ally in the struggle to preserve everyone's individual rights.

Marvin R. Shanken
Editor & Publisher

Gordon Mott
Managing Editor

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