A Big Smoke in Our Nation's Capital

| By Marvin R. Shanken | From George Burns, Winter 94/95

After more than a year of planning, we are happy to announce our most important Big Smoke ever. I don't need to remind you about the many new governmental restrictions facing cigar lovers from coast to coast.

We are not degenerates. We are not lepers. We are not outcasts. We are responsible, law-abiding, tax-paying citizens who appreciate the finest things in life. Among life's great pleasures is a handcrafted premium cigar.

On Wednesday, March 1, 1995, we are asking all cigar aficionados to join together in Washington, D.C., to reinforce this message. We will meet, permit pending, at 5 p.m. in Lafayette Park across from the White House to enjoy our favorite cigars. After about an hour of camaraderie with fellow cigar lovers from around the nation--along with many of the world's great cigar makers--we will walk together to the J.W. Marriott Hotel several blocks away for the first "D.C. Big Smoke."

And President Clinton, a fellow cigar smoker, is invited to join us.

It's the best way I know to get our message out to public officials. After all, the real purpose of our meeting is to draw attention to the government's (city, state and federal officials) increasing infringement on our individual rights. If you care about your rights, make plans to be there.

Our public display of solidarity won't come a second too soon. Government agencies--from the federal Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration (OSHA) to local city councils--are trying to pass laws that outlaw all smoking at all times in all public buildings. We are not talking about reasonable attempts to provide nonsmoking areas in tandem with smoking-allowed facilities. The efforts have one goal in mind: an outright ban.

I'm not advocating this gathering just because the crusade against smoking could prohibit one of our greatest pleasures. I'm concerned because these kinds of attacks are another case of excessive government intrusion into the private lives of Americans--in this case a campaign driven by distortions of the scientific facts regarding secondhand smoke. Public officials are supposed to help us in the name of health and what's best for us. But all they are doing is trying to control your life and mine and keep us from doing something that might be pleasurable. They are the "New Puritans," armed with simple-minded ideas about how to save people from themselves.

There is simply no reason to stand for this new Prohibition and the no-smoking statutes sweeping America. When government, in the course of its duties, begins to impose limits on personal choice, it is never content with one victory. Smoking may be the first target. But any other activity that poses a potential risk--whether it's laying out in the sun, eating hamburgers and French fries or drinking coffee--could be next.

We are sick and tired of public officials imposing their value systems upon us. What about the Declaration of Independence? Two hundred years ago, it promised all Americans "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." It's our turn to demand the freedom to fulfill our country's founding principles.

If you care, come.

Marvin R. Shanken
Editor & Publisher