So here's me on a Wednesday afternoon between classes at school in the Dominican Republic. I have an hour or so before my next class, so I grab the newspaper and cigar. I sit at a table outside of the cafeteria where smoking is permitted and at the next table there are five or six people smoking cigarettes. Upon lighting my cigar, someone from the other table approaches me and asks me to put my cigar out because it was bothering them. I was outraged. There was no sign saying "no smoking," so I continued to smoke as I pleased.
Then, an article in the paper caught my eye: "Tobacco Industry Reports Good Results," which talked about this year's harvest. What struck me was that 360,000 people in the D.R. live off the tobacco industry and that there is close to $600 million in cigar and tobacco exports. I thought, "Wow, the tobacco I love makes that much for my country, and gives so many people jobs and food in their stomachs, yet so many people despise me for it." Go figure in a country like this where so much tobacco is grown.
Do you know how many bars I have been kicked out of because of cigars? And at every one of them there was at least one person smoking a cigarette. One night, I was out with a friend from the cigar industry. We were at the bar having a drink and a damn fine cigar made by his family. The owner of the place comes up to us and says, "Those smell good." A week later, another friend and I go to the same bar. This time, we're two nobodies and the same man asks us to leave. He said that we were stinking up the place, yet last week I was at the bar having the same cigar. Needless to say, I haven't gone back.
The point I'm getting at is that the Dominican Republic is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, tobacco-producing nations on the planet, yet our culture isn't cigar-friendly. Everywhere you go in public with a cigar, you'll get a look. I am tired of not being able to go out for a cigar and I hope some day the D.R. doesn't go as far as they have in the States. I think of how my life would be living back up north where in some places you can't smoke unless you're 25 feet from building entrances. I was speechless when I read that in the previous issue of Cigar Aficionado. In the D.R., there are few restaurants that permit it, but they don't prohibit it because of the government. They prohibit it because of the people who complain. The few restaurants that do permit smoking are the ones where I spend my money at. Why is it that it takes so little for a few idiots to ruin it for us cigar lovers? Maybe they're jealous we've found something that makes us happy.
I wish people would realize the pros of the cigar life—the jobs produced, and all the good times and conversations that come with lighting a cigar. I love my cigars and I pray they'll always be there. They bring me so much. I suffer from Crohn's disease, and a long time ago my doctor told me the stress would get to me. Believe him? I did not until my last flare-up. Once I was controlled, for some reason, I had my first cigar. Since then, whenever I am stressed, I sit and have a cigar, relax and take it easy, then continue my day. Cigars have changed so many things in my life, I can't imagine living without them. They are that important to me.
In the end, I wish more people would join me for a smoke and stop being so anti-cigars, especially when they've never stopped to enjoy one. It's my lifestyle and I wish more people would follow. A lot goes through a person's mind while in the company of a fine cigar.
Santiago, Dominican Republic
I'm a relatively new Cigar Aficionado subscriber, and I'm more than pleased with your magazine. However, I was left somewhat wanting with your "Best Cars for 2008" feature in the October 2007 issue. The article fails to address one area that I think would be of great interest to my fellow readers: ashtrays.
Having shopped for a new truck/SUV recently, I had a chance to evaluate the ashtrays in quite a few vehicles. I was quite fond of the ashtray in my '99 GMC Sierra. It was well suited to cigars, and it was lighted. While cigar-friendliness was not my primary criterion in selecting a new truck, it was important to me. The majority of my cigar smoking is done in my vehicle, which is one of the few places I'm still allowed to smoke, and I was extremely disappointed with what I found. Most of the ashtrays in vehicles I test-drove were either tiny, useless crevices, barely big enough to hold a pencil, or some goofy contraption that you're supposed to stick in a cup holder. Neither option seemed suitable for cigars. Only one vehicle I test-drove (a 2007 Hyundai Santa Fe, believe it or not) had what I would consider to be a suitable ashtray.
Is it that consumer demand for ashtrays is down? Is it political correctness run amok? It's bad enough that elected representatives are regulating and taxing tobacco out of our lives, but for Detroit to take away our ashtrays to boot? Freedom shouldn't be an aftermarket accessory.
Kinderhook, New York
Editor's note: Great idea. We'll be checking for that in the future.