On a daily basis, your freedom to enjoy a cigar is being stripped away by an overzealous antismoking movement. This is what the Cigar Rights of America, a new smoker's rights organization, declares on its Web site, and it is kicking off a four-day Freedom Tour next week to spread this call to arms and educate smokers as to what they can do about impending antismoking legislation.
The tour begins on August 19 with a gala dinner in New York City, where attendees will learn about the CRA's mission and meet some of the heaviest hitters in the cigar industry who are also founders of the CRA. Cigar icons such as Carlos Fuente Sr. and Carlos Fuente Jr., Jorge Padrón, Litto Gomez and Ernesto Perez-Carrillo will talk about the problems facing the premium cigar industry and discuss how consumers can become actively involved in the CRA's program.
"This is something that we should've done 10 years ago," said Robert Levin, president of Ashton Distributors Inc., who will also be on the tour. "It's very important to have an active, consumer-based organization like this. If we can get enough people, it will have an effect because politicians care about votes."
"It's an organization that is probably overdue," concurs tour member Jose Oliva, the vice president of Oliva Cigar Co. "But it will be able to isolate the needs and concerns of the premium cigar industry. For the first time, the end user—the cigar smoker—will be able to be a part of a team when it comes time to participate and organize. The smoker never had this kind of mechanism. They are eager and worried about what is going to happen to the premium cigar industry. Now they can get involved."
On August 19, about 20 cigarmakers will assemble at the Hudson Terrace in New York City for the tour's launch. Tickets for the New York event cost $300, which in addition to an open bar, hors d'oeuvres, dinner and cigars, includes a one-year membership to CRA and a Freedom Tour T-shirt.
On August 20, the group of cigarmakers will split, half attending an event in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and the other half going to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The following day two separate events will be held in Chicago before the group unites again for the tour's concluding event in Orlando, Florida, on August 22.
"Once the tour is over, we will continue to recruit people," said Oliva. "We don't need an army of activists, we just need people who are focused on the cause of enjoying premium cigars."
Cigar Aficionado senior editor David Savona will be on tour with the CRA for its duration, providing daily blogs and video clips on cigaraficionado.com as the campaign progresses.
Founded this year, Cigar Rights of America is a nonprofit organization aimed at fighting tobacco tax hikes and smoking bans. For more information on the CRA and for details about the tour, see the CRA Web site at www.cigarrights.org.