The Cigar Association of America's new campaign, Banding Together, is a welcome step toward further limiting underage cigar smoking. While the underage problem is a small one for the cigar industry, it is an important symbol that needs a focused response from the industry as well as consumers. We here at Cigar Aficionado have said it repeatedly from the day the magazine was launched--cigars are an adult pleasure. The decision to smoke requires adult maturity.
Banding Together highlights the same idea. Featured in the advertising campaign and point-of-purchase signs are two major points: cigars are for the discriminating adult, and the goal is to prevent all underage consumption of cigars.
Cigar retailers are one of the primary focuses of CAA's campaign. Retailers are being asked to vigorously enforce the laws regarding purchase of tobacco products and to require identification of people who appear to be underage. It's the same approach that has already made it more difficult for underage persons to buy alcohol. For premium hand-rolled cigars, the goal may be easier to achieve: most hand-rolled cigars are kept in humidors or behind counters, making it easier to control access to the product.
The campaign also highlights the fact that the cigar industry has never advertised its product to young smokers. Before Cigar Aficionado was launched in 1992, the cigar industry already had voluntary advertising codes in place, dictating that no ads should appeal to anyone under the age of 21. In addition, the cigar industry has never placed ads in youth-oriented magazines.
Another important point is that the total expenditure for cigar advertising is a fraction of that spent on other adult products such as cigarettes and liquor. According to CAA, the approximately $10 million annually spent on cigar advertising is only 4.4 percent that of distilled spirits advertising, 1.25 percent of beer and wine advertising and only 1.85 percent of cigarette advertising. The bulk of the cigar industry's advertising and promotion dollars is spent on point-of-sale signage and, today, on specialty events such as cigar dinners and Cigar Aficionado's Big Smokes.
We'd like to add a suggestion to the campaign. It's not unheard of that teenagers will ask adults to buy them cigars as a way to avoid the restrictions. We believe it is very important that no cigar lovers purchase cigars for anyone under the legal smoking age in their communities. That way, we all participate in keeping cigars out of the hands of America's youth.
Why is this so important? As many of you have already noticed, the soaring popularity of cigars has caught the attention of public health groups around the country, which have begun to examine the phenomenon. One group's 1997 survey of teenagers claimed that about one-fourth had smoked at least one cigar in the previous 12 months. While you can argue that kids will always be curious about something adults do, it still provides an excuse to attack the cigar industry. But it doesn't have to be this way. We can help reduce, maybe even stop, incidents of underage cigar smoking, and in the process help to blunt the attacks on the cigar industry and quiet the drumbeat against cigars.
We believe that smoking a cigar is a choice that adults should be free to make, fully aware of the risks--and fully aware of the benefits. Freedom to choose is one of the founding principles of the United States. Let's help to keep it that way.