Out of the Humidor
From the Print Edition:
Dennis Haysbert, Nov/Dec 2006
On September 11, I was watching the coverage of the many memorial services honoring those who were victims of the attacks five years ago. During the coverage, my mail arrived and in it was my copy of Cigar Aficionado. I had already spent most of the day watching the coverage and reflecting on the terrible events of that day. Having spent over 20 years in the securities industry, I lost a number of friends as well as some casual acquaintances on that horrific day. I had spent a good part of my life in and around the World Trade Center and was supposed to be there later that week. I know my life will never be the same, and I can't imagine anyone who wasn't in some way affected. I started thumbing through the magazine as the television was showing the services from Ground Zero and the Pentagon. I decided it would be the right time to pull out a special cigar from my humidor and reflect upon how fortunate I was to be alive and to remember those who weren't. It was an emotional time and it really hit me how lucky we are to live in a country where personal freedom and liberty are the cornerstones of what we stand for.
As I looked at the pictures people sent in of their families and friends celebrating and bonding (with each other and cigars), I was listening to the speeches and interviews of those who were directly involved in the attacks. I found the juxtaposition of all of these events incredibly overwhelming enough to sit down and write this letter. Everything started to seem a little more special today. The freedoms that we have and the lives that we lead can't be taken for granted, and I never will again. I thought of how much we owe to the soldiers that fight for our freedom at home and abroad as well as the men and women of law enforcement that serve us at home. I also salute the everyday people that took control of Flight 93 to prevent the further destruction of this country. The articles in that issue also reminded me of the lifestyle choices that we have.
Many times we don't realize what it means to be free and have the ability to make choices. I know after reflecting on the events of the past five years that I will never again take for granted what it means to be an American. We may not all get along or agree on issues, but that is OK. We are blessed to live in a society where we are free to disagree. We elect our leaders and we throw them out if we don't like the job they are doing. We live in a country where we are free to speak our minds and not be afraid of being jailed or executed for having a view contrary to those in charge.
I am extremely proud to be an American as I know that so many people are. I just wanted to take the time to reflect on this special day what makes this country so great. So many of the articles and pictures in that issue hit close to home and I guess it just made me even more sentimental and patriotic than usual. The one thing that I propose is that in the coming years we use September 11 as a day to come together as a country, and not only to remember those who died but to celebrate all of those things that make this country great. It would be a great tribute to those who fell on 9/11 and in the years of conflict that followed. I think the United States is the best place in the world to live and we should never forget it.
San Francisco, California
Editor's note: Amen. Check our editors' letter this issue on page 27.
As a firm believer in smokers' rights, I think there should be a full week that smokers of all tobacco products abstain from all bars and restaurants that do not allow smoking. Business owners should have the right to establish a smoking environment or not. The Boston Tea Party worked, so let's have a tobacco party. We all know tobacco is money, so let's hit the bureaucrats and liberals in their pocketbooks. I know you get letters all the time about how our rights are being stripped. Let's take action, starting with you, and establish a date—maybe even a whole month—and hit the media with ad campaigns. It may hurt a little, but we have to fight.
Clementon, New Jersey
I discovered your magazine last December when I had my first cigar. It was a cold night and I sat on my porch with an Arturo Fuente Hemingway Signature and your magazine, and I could feel that it was a match made in heaven (despite the fact that I couldn't feel my nose).
I started smoking cigars not because of their supposed buddy-buddy image of wealth, but because they are a celebration of life and of art. Up until this point, at the age of 18, I had been cursed with more afflictions than you could shake a stick at. I had finished my 22nd surgery (an aggressive, highly invasive spinal surgery) less than two years prior, and had grown accustomed to weekly medical procedures and daily medicines. I was constantly stressed as I tried to keep both my education and health as top priorities. Then I found cigars—not the most healthful way to relax, but the taste, the smell, the camaraderie and the beautiful art won me over before my better, rational and thrifty side could speak. And at the same time I discovered your magazine. So I'd just like to say thank you for continuing to support my peace of mind (and spending habit).
Rhinebeck, New York
As a current subscriber of your great magazine, I would like to share an incident with you that recently occurred to me.
During the last week of July 2006, I was spending time in South Lake Tahoe. A close friend had recommended the Lakeside Inn and Casino just east of the state line. Both my wife and I planned an evening of table and machine gambling. Upon entering the casino, I saw no signs that smoking was prohibited.
However, I did see several guests smoking cigarettes. After my wife chose a gaming machine, I started to smoke a cigar.
Minutes later, I was approached by the casino security and told I could not smoke the cigar. I asked the security guard if I was in a "no smoking" area. The security guard replied no, but said that the casino did not sell cigars and therefore I could not smoke one inside. I asked the security guard if everyone in the casino had purchased cigarettes from them. Naturally, I got no reply.
I often visit casinos in Nevada and California. I have never heard of such casino policies and believe the rule is ludicrous. Have you ever heard of such a thing? Naturally, I stopped my wife from gambling and left the casino. Additionally, I have sent a letter to the casino regarding my dissatisfaction.
If you find this newsworthy, I would like you to share all or part of this story with your subscribers. I plan to never patronize this casino again.
My name is Thomas Steshko and I am a corporal in the Marine Corps currently deployed to Camp Fallujah, Iraq. My friend, Cpl. Irby Fletcher, and I are recon- operators with 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion based at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. While deployed here in Iraq, we conduct long and tedious patrols throughout our area. This job can be stressful and taxing on the body, which is why it is very important to find activities that allow us to relax and chill out after an operation.
Irby and I have found our ultimate relaxation in fine cigars. Every chance we get at night when we are back in camp, we put aside time to sit, relax, have a good conversation and smoke fine tobacco. This activity has grown from an occasional event into a tradition. Nothing relaxes us better and relieves stress like our cigar time. We now have our family and friends sending us fine cigars from our hometown tobacconists. When time permits, Irby and I are constantly communicating with our families about our favorite brands, lengths and ring sizes, and about the high-rated cigars we read about in Cigar Aficionado.
Irby and I just wanted to show our appreciation for your magazine and the great articles concerning the cigar and tobacco culture. Those articles keep us up to date with the latest and greatest cigars, brands and events. We are often left jealous and yearning for the many cigars showcased in your magazine, but for now we happily settle for what our family and friends send us.
So thanks again, Cigar Aficionado, for promoting and enriching the cigar culture. Irby and I appreciate it very much and we look forward to the day when we can sit in our local tobacco shops back home and "burn one."
Cpl. Thomas "Stitch" Steshko
Cpl. Irby "Arrow Maker"Fletcher
2d Reconnaissance Battalion, Bravo Co., 1st Plt
I know you must receive numerous letters relative to new areas being ruled as off-limits to cigar smokers. I was so surprised by a recent bit of cigar-smoker prejudice that I felt you and your readers should be made aware of it.
I have been retired and residing in Las Vegas for the past five years. My wife and I became very fond of the Rampart Casino (a Marriott hotel), located at 221 North Rampart Boulevard in Las Vegas. Twice a week we drive there to enjoy dinner in one of their fine restaurants, and then go our separate ways for a few hours: she to her video poker machines, and I to the sports book. This evening I did my usual thing—sat in the smoking section of the sports book and started reviewing the racing forms for thoroughbred racetracks that were running. As I made a few selections, I lit up a beautiful Cuban Montecristo No. 2 and ordered a coffee from the cocktail waitress.
After no more than five delicious puffs, the sports book manager approached and told me I either had to immediately extinguish my cigar or leave the sports book. I couldn't believe it. They serve no food in the sports book. They only have a bar along one wall, with the room divided in two: one half for nonsmoking, the other half for smoking. When I asked why, I was simply told that they had a lot of complaints about cigar smoke. As I looked around in disbelief, I counted 27 people puffing away on cigarettes! This was a first for me. No cigar smoking in a Las Vegas sports book! Anyway, it was no problem for me. My wife and I simply went down the street to another casino whose management hadn't lost its mind, and I finished my delicious Monte.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Americans have had a love/hate relationship with tobacco for over 200 years. During colonial times, it was believed to be a cough remedy. In the nineteenth century, it was believed to be an aphrodisiac. By the dawn of the twenty-first century, it became the most diabolical scourge in American history. Today, no reasonable person would deny that tobacco is potentially harmful. However, smoking is a personal right and is best defined as a risky habit, not a disease or crime that requires treatment or persecutory laws.
I vehemently challenge the so-called war on tobacco, which is a bombastic absurdity because a war, by definition, can only exist between humans in conflict. If there are no weapons, blood or bullets, we're talking about oppression or persecution and government interference of freedom, not war. It's logically impossible to have a war on tobacco (a substance) or poverty (an economic condition).
Regretfully, some people partake in risky behavior and damage their health, but for over 200 years that has been the price of liberty and freedom. Regardless of risk and danger, Americans have the right of choice; nonsmokers and fundamentalists can walk away instead of playing the role of self-ordained smoking police.
According to our founding fathers, Americans have the right of choice and the inalienable right of the pursuit of happiness provided we don't violate the rights of others, including smokers and fundamentalists. Smokers can walk into smoky places and nonsmoking fundamentalists can walk away in lieu of trying to police and sanitize streets, beaches, parks and all manner of public places.
Despite the ferocious arguments over the smoking issue, few people really question the propaganda and rhetoric used to justify the so-called tobacco war or the fundamentalist doctrines that drive it. This is because the war on tobacco is camouflaged by two great moral dilemmas of our time—the struggle between two diametrically opposed views of mankind: between man viewed as a responsible rational being benefiting and/or suffering from the consequences of his actions, and man as an irresponsible child, unfit for freedom and protected from risks and danger by agents of the all-powerful, omnipotent, ubiquitous Big Brother state.
Although the war on smokers is typically propagandized as a medical or public health effort to prevent illness or maintain health, actually it is a neo-Puritan struggle to purify and cleanse society of arbitrary evil, not to mention the millions of dollars of profit diverted to special-interest groups. The evil weed is a scapegoat for any variety of problems that beset a given society at a given time in history. Persecuting witches, homosexuals and smokers is supported by custom-made propaganda that looks superficially viable and seems to be reasonable, but not because it really protects society from harm, but because it reaffirms the power system's core values and gives the illusion of safety and security.
The more laws, regulations and scapegoats Americans make, the more safe and secure they think they are. But are they really? Our civil liberties are being seriously violated and if we don't take a stand, there's no telling how far the tyrannical fundamentalists will go. Today it's tobacco. What will be on the prohibition agenda for tomorrow?
Edward D. Balyk
Keansburg, New Jersey