Out of the Humidor
From the Print Edition:
Emeril Lagasse, Sept/Oct 2005
I read with great interest your column in the August 2005 issue applauding "powerful men" for their courage to publicly engage in the enjoyment of fine hand-rolled cigars. I, too, choose to thwart popularity and pursue what I find enjoyable—and legal—in our society: fine cigars, single-malt Scotch and a perfectly aged piece of red meat.
I live my life under the mantle of personal freedom of choice—I choose the things I enjoy in my life and it shouldn't be anyone else's business what I choose to do in the privacy of my own home. However, there are other personal freedoms that I also endorse. I believe it shouldn't be anyone else's business if two people of the same sex choose to commit to a life together. I believe a woman should have the sole right to choose what she does with her body and her reproductive choices. I believe that religion has no place in public education or within the structure of our government.
Ironically, the rationale within which I believe these things is the same rationale that you use to endorse smoking, drinking, gambling and other activities. Under what authority do conservative Republicans—such as the "powerful men" you list—feel it is right to appropriate this mantle of freedom? Why do they feel it is only freedom for their views and beliefs at the expense of contrary beliefs? (Personally, I am ashamed to be from the same state as Tom DeLay and George W. Bush.)
I am a somewhat rare bird—a cigar-smoking, golf-playing, Scotch-drinking, steak-eating, fish-catching Democrat and damn proud of it! The cover of Cigar Aficionado has recently been graced by many people who share some of these same beliefs: Alec Baldwin, Morgan Freeman, Bill Murray and Jimmy Smits, to name a few. It's too bad you chose not to include them in your list.
P.S. By the way, if George is so powerful, why doesn't he have the cajones to fire up in public? He's a second termer…who does he have to impress?!
As the publisher of one of the most respected lifestyle magazines, you should have a pretty good idea about the meaning of life. In reality, life is empty and meaningless. The real meaning poses a challenge and therefore a risk not everyone is willing to take. Some try to stick with the "usual"; others try to live by the "expected." I say winners live by their own rules. Society has come a long way in the quest to find the perfect formula for balance, but it is yet far from accomplishing anything remarkable. As Americans, we claim our freedom and our pride, when the rest of the world looks at us in disbelief.
The purpose of this letter is to touch base on a subject that you've been addressing lately, and on a matter of principles of society. I was absolutely astounded when I heard the news that Fidel Castro had completely banned smoking in public places in Cuba. We thought Castro had lost it thirty-some years ago, but now we know for sure. It doesn't get any more stupid than this! A smoking ban in the capital of cigars, as it is in many places in the United States and the rest of the world, is taking away our freedom by the minute.
Why do we read your magazine? Why do we subscribe and keep ourselves informed about something that could be about to disappear? Does anybody in Congress really believe in and fight for our rights as cigar smokers?
I call these bans a loss of freedom. The kind we're used to seeing imposed in dictatorships. The lack of space and freedom to enjoy our cigars in public places will make smoking a less enjoyable activity. Don't get me wrong; I'd continue to enjoy my smokes even in a dark attic, if it came to that, but let's face it, that wouldn't be a lot of fun. We are sociable beings. We all like company as well as trying different ambiences, places, events, drinks and food around our cigars, right?
Imagine how boring and dull it would be if there were no musicians allowed to play live, no arenas to watch sports and concerts. Imagine being reduced to TV as our only source of entertainment, which seems to be the case these days when the average American watches TV for an average of 5.5 hours a day! This will lead us to social isolation, shamelessly shrinking our groups and manipulating our minds and beliefs.
Nobody, man or woman, will ever wear their best suit or dress for the purpose of "trying it at home"; we don't buy luxury or sport cars to keep 'em inside the garage.
I'd like to express my frustration and my indignation through your magazine, because cigars are a simple pleasure ranking at the top of the list of things to make life a bit more interesting and meaningful. My best moments have been shared with friends, family and cigars. Cigars are a sign of company, trust, success, friendship and more. Culturally, I've been around cigars and cigars have been around me for decades.
Shame on those whose lacking of souls have taken away our right to smoke and are threatening smokers into becoming an endangered species. You know what the real problem is with our society? We have never been able to live in one. The U.S. lack of culture and history defines us as a shallow group on the worldwide map. We have never been able to respect differences. We have never been able to live together as one. As to Fidel Castro, let's hope he won't be around for too much longer. He's done enough damage. Will it prevail?
As to myself, I'll continue to live by my own rules; standing out from the crowd has never tasted so good, specially in the company of a big cigar!
Editor's note: Your sentiments are shared here. And we will continue to call on our cigar smokers to find ways to fight for their personal rights, no matter how small their efforts may seem.
"What's Happened to the Constitution?" Your editorial in the April issue was, well, preaching to the choir. But I'm left asking, where else can we turn, to whom can we start shouting, "Enough already!"?
I live in the village of Woodbridge, a planned community in Irvine, California. Woodbridge has about 42 parks and pools available to our 30,000 residents. These parks and pool facilities are all privately owned and maintained by us. As a homeowner, I have a deeded interest in all the common-area holdings; thus, unlike public lands owned by the city, I have a private property interest in these "community" facilities.
Just recently our Board of Directors passed a ban on all smoking in any and all of these facilities! My routine for the past 25 years has been to go to the local Jacuzzi late at night to unwind in the hot tub while smoking a cigar. This particular facility has always been 24-hour and restricted to adults only (many others exist for families), and late at night it is usually vacant. This facility is outdoors, with the nearest neighbor either across a street or across a park; at least 50 to 75 yards away in any direction. Yes, that's right, an outdoor facility, 75 yards away from the nearest neighbor, restricted to only adults, and in which I have a private property interest in, yet now I am no longer allowed to smoke a cigar!
Twenty-five years ago, the community rules were already published, I purchased my property understanding such rules, and everyone else who has purchased since then also has been made aware of the rules. So how can the politically correct pinheads now come along and change them, imposing new restrictions, when they affect the use of my private property? To ban smoking in public city parks is bad enough, but this is an ex post facto deprivation of my private property rights! Haven't we fought in wars with other countries over confiscating private citizens' property?
This issue had been brought up in a November board meeting, remanded to committee, which responded to the board that the issue should be dropped as there was no need for it. Yet the board on its own initiative then voted to pass the ban in February, ostensibly in the interest of the community. Yet at that meeting, nobody was in attendance supporting the ban! A couple of us were there opposing it, but nobody in support of it. No discussion of reasons took place, no facts or figures presented to support a ban, just a comment that "several e-mails" were received supporting it. No other support. So this kangaroo court of a board meeting has now been able to shackle my freedom of enjoying my private property. (OK, this presumes compliance...yeah, right!) Do you have any suggestions on where I can go to vent my anger or possibly even challenge the board's ability to have made such a ban? When is enough, enough already?
Editor's note: Short of hiring a lawyer, you could reach out to your neighbors with a petition demanding another public hearing on the matter. Call your local newspaper. Ask how to write an Op-Ed piece about the unilateral confiscation of your personal property rights. Those are just two suggestions. You have a strong point. Make it publicly.