I am a subscriber to Cigar Aficionado and I very much enjoy cigars. As an employee in the much maligned tobacco industry, a former member of the United States Air Force and a citizen of the United States, I was appalled at the following text printed in the December 26 U.S. Tobacco Weekly by the Tobacco Merchants Association Inc.
Three days after New York's City Council passed a bill to ban smoking in virtually all the bars and restaurants across the city, Mayor Michael Bloomberg made a last-minute amendment to enable the conduct of the biannual Big Smoke cigar fest, sponsored by Cigar Aficionado magazine. The amendment exempts any facility from the smoking ban for up to five days in a year if the purpose of such a facility is to invite the public for "promoting and sampling tobacco products." A City Hall official said that the smoking law was amended because the city did not want to lose out on out-of-town smokers who visit New York for the Big Smoke.
I will not begin to argue that there are no health risks associated with smoking. I would, however, argue that there are elevated health risks associated with excessive use of many products, including, but certainly not limited to, alcohol, fatty foods and prescription drugs. The basic question is that of legality and a person's right to make an informed decision. Is tobacco legal?
Mayor Bloomberg and the antis will champion this bill as helping to rid society of one of the true evils to health, but is this what he is really trying to accomplish? For 360 days a year, you cannot smoke in New York bars and restaurants; however, for five days a year, as long as it is to "promote and sample" tobacco products, well, that's acceptable. Mayor Bloomberg is typical of the many tobacco antis. Tobacco is evil and bad for public health, but we want your money!
Is tobacco legal? Yes. The tobacco industry is one of the most taxed and closely regulated industries in the world. Should people be informed of the possible health risks that could possibly be associated with smoking? Yes. Now, let people make an informed decision on whether or not to make use of a legal product.
I cannot believe that Cigar Aficionado condones the double standards of Mayor Bloomberg. If New York City does not want tobacco products, then let it outlaw the use of them, but do not let it reap the financial benefits of the legal use of them. Move the biannual Big Smoke cigar festival to a location that will welcome not only our money, but also our right
Donald F. Duncan
Greenville, North Carolina
Editor's note: We feel strongly that maintaining a presence for the Big Smoke in New York is vital in our efforts to gain more compromises in the future for cigar smokers. If you abandon the playing field, the antis have won. We too believe that tobacco is a legal product, and in the future, the laws should reflect that reality.