There was a buzz on the rooftop terrace in Lower Manhattan in mid-August and a cloud of smoke. The event was the kickoff for a new cigar smokers organization, Cigar Rights of America. We were there, along with most of the top names in the cigar industry—Carlito Fuente, Carlos Fuente Sr., Charlie Toraño, Christian Eiroa, Eric Newman, Ernesto Perez-Carrillo, Jorge Padrón, Jose Oliva, Litto Gomez, Manuel Quesada, Pete Johnson, Peter Baenninger, Robert Levin, Rocky Patel and Tim Ozgener, among others. They welcomed more than 200 New York—area cigar lovers for an evening to celebrate their love of a great smoke without fear of being asked to put it out.
CRA is exactly the kind of organization we've been talking about for years—a group that rises out of the grass roots of the consumer cigar market, with the support of the manufacturers, and with the stated goal of "fighting to protect your freedom to smoke cigars." In their mission statement, the organizers acknowledge that they had always just assumed that the main target of the antismoking forces was cigarettes, not cigars. But we have all realized that assumption was wrong. The target is all tobacco, and hand-rolled cigars are right in the crosshairs of new initiatives to tax all tobacco products, limit where they can be smoked and ultimately create a tacit Prohibition.
We always advocated the idea of a consumer organization to protect the rights of cigar smokers. It has been our belief that the only way to combat anti-cigar groups is on the ground in every city and town around the country. That is exactly the strategy being used by the anti-tobacco groups; they start at the local level, get city councils to pass smoking bans, and then, using their success, they convince lawmakers at the state level to "equalize" smoking regulations in every city in the state. By the time a measure reaches a state legislature, it's usually too late to stop. So an organization such as CRA is exactly the kind of group that needed to be created. It provides a forum and a resource for anyone looking for guidance and help when faced with an attempt to ban smoking in his community.
CRA is also making an important distinction. Its primary goal is to protect the rights of premium cigar smokers. The group knows it can't isolate itself from other tobacco products, but its focus is on the premium, hand-rolled cigar, which is an adult choice, an adult pleasure and something that should be a legal right for adults. Those are issues that we have argued since Cigar Aficionado was launched 16 years ago.
No one is pushing a crusade to allow smoking anytime, anywhere, no matter the consequences. In the end, we are all seeking reasonable compromises that give people who enjoy a legal product the right to enjoy it in public places. If the location is a restaurant or a pub, that decision should be left up to the owner of that establishment, and then, consumers can decide for themselves if they want to enter that place. It is time to fight back against the blanket bans that prohibit all smoking.
Go CRA. We'll help in any way we can.