Editors' Note: Shame on Apple

Cigar smokers’ First Amendment rights denied
| By David Savona , Marvin R. Shanken | From Animal House, January/February 2018

Right now around 700 million people around the world are using an iPhone. Both of us have iPhones of our own. But lately, looking at our screens makes us sad. That’s because Apple doesn’t believe in the First Amendment, doesn’t believe in free speech. The company, one of the largest on the planet, has declared war on cigar smokers. It banned Cigar Aficionado’s Where to Smoke app from its store on October 30. 

Where to Smoke, which we created in 2015, is a free, informational app, which points our readers to more than 2,600 cigar shops, cigar bars and other cigar-friendly venues. In a world where fewer and fewer places allow you to enjoy a fine cigar, it’s a valuable resource.

Our editorial staff dedicated an enormous amount of work to vetting all of the locations that exist in the database, and our developers worked for months to turn all that information into a beautiful app that guides cigar smokers to their destinations. The places we highlight are for adults only, and the app doesn’t sell cigars.

Apple claimed Where To Smoke was in violation of its policy regarding apps that promote tobacco products. We fought the ban, but our complaints fell on deaf ears. Apple sent us this final e-mail when it pulled the plug:

“We continue to find that your app promotes the use of tobacco…which is not permitted on the App Store.”

Soon after, Apple banned the Cigar Rights of America app. We’re sure more cigar apps will be banned in the near future.

These moves are outrageous, and what makes them even more despicable is the fact Apple has no issue with apps that assist people in buying marijuana. Do a search yourself, and you’ll find Weedmaps, “the largest and most comprehensive marijuana directory and discovery resource on the planet,” or Leafly, “the world’s cannabis information resource.” When we asked Apple about the contradiction, we were told that apps about marijuana do not violate its policy.

That’s not all you’ll find in the App Store. There are programs which simulate gambling, ones on which you can become a sniper (Sniper 3D: Shoot To Kill) and there’s even one called Sexy Booth, which allows you to point your camera at someone, take their photo, and “see through clothes like an airport body scanner.” Somehow this is OK, but Where to Smoke is not. 

It bears repeating that cigars are a legal product, able to be bought by adults in all 50 U.S. states and all around the world. Marijuana remains a banned substance in half of the United States, and most of the rest of the world. 

Apple Inc. is big—Fortune ranks it as the third-largest company in the United States, and it posted $229 billion in revenues in fiscal 2017. But banning our app from its store doesn’t take it away from you. If you already have Where to Smoke on your iPhone, you can continue to use it. You will still receive new locations as we update the app, but you won’t be privy to any new designs or bug fixes. Those of you who don’t have an iPhone can still download Where to Smoke for an Android in Google Play. It’s free. And you can always use it on our mobile-friendly website. Just go to wts.cigaraficionado.com.

This is David against Goliath, and there’s no happy ending for the little guy this time. Apple is no friend to cigar smokers.