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One of the toughest years in our lifetimes is drawing to a close.

A year ago, we were almost paralyzed with a deep fear that our financial security was catastrophically damaged, and that the United States and the world were on the brink of an economic depression that would overshadow the Great Depression of the 1930s. We called then for a bit of sanity, a deep breath and a faith in our ability to get through the crisis together.

While it may be a little early to relax, we would like to think that the worst is behind us. No matter how many bumps there are in the road ahead, no matter how many ups and downs we have to go through, no matter how slow the recovery, there are finally signs that we can begin to plan for better times.

Just look at this issue of our magazine. General Motors has returned as an advertiser, and it is joined by BMW. We have a number of high-end watch ads. Our cigar advertising has actually grown in the last year. And the ranks of spirits companies in these pages is as strong as ever. They have come together here to make a statement that their businesses are still looking toward the future, a future that they believe will be positive because people still want to enjoy the finer things in life.

That's the good news. We don't want to see everything through rose-colored glasses. Two U.S. administrations have had to take extraordinary measures to save the financial system, and to keep many people above water in their homes. Billions have been spent to revive the economy, and billions more are in play as the politicians in Washington try to solve some of the recalcitrant problems we have in our society. We will all be assessing the long-term impact of those programs and decisions for years to come. We also are still actively fighting two wars and the threat of terrorism directed against the United States is always present.

For cigar smokers, the non-stop assault on tobacco has not abated and the campaign to prohibit all smoking in public, even all smoking, is as intense as it has ever been. We have seen again the manipulation of research results to support more stringent bans on smoking—the drop in heart attacks being attributed solely to smoking bans is just one example. And tobacco will continue to be the target of the Prohibitionists through higher taxes, restricted sales outlets and stricter no-smoking bans.

But just like the crisis has begun to pass in our economy, we believe that the cycle toward compromise with tobacco has started. We have seen some communities seek accommodation of smokers, giving them back their right to enjoy a legal product in certain circumstances. Most of these are small steps, hardly worth talking about. But each small step leads toward a world where compromises, solutions that take into account everyone's rights, may be possible.

So for now, as we approach the end of 2009, there are a lot of reasons to be thankful. It's a good time to step back, take a deep breath and appreciate whatever good fortune you've had this past year, and be grateful that your worst fears didn't occur. The future is looking brighter.