One Step Forward
As a cigar smoker you can’t help but pay attention to the never-ending assault on our freedom to smoke cigars. So, when there is a nominally positive step, like was seen when a proposed smoking ban was narrowly defeated in Indianapolis, I am happy.
Unfortunately, it is only a matter of time before Indianapolis follows in the footsteps of so many other cities throughout America (and the rest of the world) and seriously restricts the rights of smokers.
Two Steps Back
Remember my post a couple of weeks ago about how the FDA had banned almost all flavored cigarettes (except menthol) and how this would probably lead to a total ban on all flavored tobacco products? If not then you should go back and read it because this is exactly what is happening in New York City (thanks Bloomberg).
According to Cigar Aficionado, New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, has signed into law a ban on the sale of all flavored tobacco products within city limits. From Cigar Aficionado:
“Introductory number 433-A would ban the sale of tobacco products with characterizing flavors, except for menthol, mint, or wintergreen, in any location other than a tobacco bar,” said Bloomberg in the official press release. “This bill improves upon the recent federal ban on flavored cigarettes and makes New York City the first city to protect children from all flavored products on the market.“
Again with the “protection of children” shtick. Wouldn’t banning the sale of tobacco products accomplish that goal? Oh, wait, that’s right, IT IS ALREADY ILLEGAL TO SELL TOBACCO PRODUCTS TO MINORS!!!
Basically, what all the smoke-Nazis are doing is infringing on the rights of adults to supposedly “protect the children.” And sure, you would be right if you said that flavored tobacco products are more palatable for minors than the real stuff but that doesn’t change the fact that laws are already in place that prohibit the sale of all tobacco products to minors and that is the way it should be.
But I’ll play this rhetorical game with the smoze-Nazis. If it is copacetic to ban flavored tobacco products because it appeals more to children than a Partagas Black Label cigar then shouldn’t we also ban all flavored alcohol? I’m talking about those flavored vodka brands, mixed drinks, and the such.
Why is it alright to ban flavored tobacco products because it is viewed as a gateway to a lifetime of blah, blah, blah but flavored alcohol is alright even though it could also be categorized as a gateway to a lifetime of blah, blah, blah? There is, of course, little difference between the two (and, to be honest, I would wholeheartedly support a ban of all flavored vodkas… I’m kidding – sort of).
I guess the only silver lining to this whole story is that thanks to the repressive regime that is running New York (both the governor and Mayor Bloomberg) the rich are leaving that state in droves. It’s only a matter of time before those politicians will need to raise more tax revenue to cover their grandiose spending programs and that is when they will “reluctantly” legalize flavored tobacco products again.
The fun thing about being a member of Cigar Rights of America is that they will occasionally send emails out about important matters to us, the cigar smokers of America. (By the way, if you have not yet joined you should for all the right – and selfish – reasons.) One such email came a couple of days ago asking their members to tell the FDA what they think about proposed tobacco regulations. Here’s what it says:
The United States Food and Drug Administration has called for public comment on the implementation of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.
Cigar Rights of America, as a adult consumer based organization with members in all fifty states, is concerned with the approach the Center for Tobacco Products will take with regard to premium hand made cigars, and hereby calls all its members to post their personal comments on the FDA’s Regulations website.
As a guideline for your comment, please be sure to include the following:
It is clear that premium hand made cigars are not a focal point of the statute nor the intent of the US Congress, but the overarching authority over all tobacco products gives us pause and concern. It is also clear that the authority granted to the US Food and Drug Administration by Congress did not have premium hand made cigars as a target of further regulatory burden.
1) Premium hand made cigars are an adult focused product, in terms of their use, appeal and economic attraction, with the marketing and advertising of the product being principally in adult lifestyle oriented publications, hence not in any manner appealing to children.
2) It is also worthy to note that premium hand made cigars are internationally considered an art form, that allows for adults of legal age to truly appreciate the attraction and use of the product.
3) Premium hand made cigars are products made and sold principally by family oriented businesses. Therefore, additional regulatory burdens should not be imposed upon these backbones of American small business.
4) It is also noteworthy that many in the adult cigar user population enjoy flavored cigars, and because they are enjoyed by adults, and marketed and sold only to adults, that they should not receive the scrutiny of the agency.
SPECIAL NOTE TO CRA MEMBERS:
Please compose comments in your own words and DO NOT copy the text above. Your comments will have a greater impact if they are personally composed.
The complete release can be found here.
This kind of outreach bolsters my confidence in CRA. Like I have said before, I joined this organization with some reservations about their effectiveness. CRA is communicating with its members some but can be doing so more often through email. Even so, score one for CRA.
A couple of weeks ago Patrick S at The Stogie Guys wrote a post titled Stogie News: Flavored Cigarette Ban Hits, Cigars Next? Short answer: Give ‘em time.
From another blog:
One of the problems with the new legislation is that the law does not clearly denote what constitutes a cigarette.
The most common distinction between a cigar and a cigarette is in the way each is wrapped, with cigars being rolled in tobacco leaves and cigarettes being cased in paper. Officials have been “deliberately vague” in letting the public know whether the ban would apply to flavored small cigars and cigarillos.
In a letter to tobacco manufacturers the agency noted that the ban applied to all “cigarette-like” products, regardless of how they are packaged and/or marketed.
Part of the confusion is due to the strict deadline that the agency had to meet. It only had 90 days to put the ban on flavored cigarettes into effect.
Catherine Lorraine, a lawyer in the agency’s tobacco center, said, “We will be looking at products on an individual basis to determine if it meets that aspect of the legislation.”
The post goes on to explain that the reason for the ambiguity is due to the short amount of time the poor FDA had to create these new bans. It had nothing to do with the FDA wanting to create regulations so broad that they could easily be expanded in the future. No way!
Just remember, the FDA could have just enforced laws already on the book that prohibit tobacco consumption by minors. Instead of doing the sensible thing, they just went ahead and banned flavored cigarettes. And, thanks to what I think was a purposefully broad regulation, flavored cigarillos are next. Just you watch.
Despite all the rosy projections for the cigar industry I have read and heard about for the last couple of years it looks like Cuba is going to cut back production by 30%.
Cash-short Cuba is slashing the amount of land devoted to growing its famous tobacco by more than 30 percent as the global recession and worldwide spread of smoking bans bite into sales of the country’s prized cigars.
Demand for Cuba’s cigars fell 3 percent in 2008 and earlier was reported down 15 percent in 2009 because of the recession and the smoking bans adopted in a growing number of places as a public health measure.
Cuba’s National Statistics Office, in a report posted on its web page (www.one.cu), said land to be planted with tobacco for next year’s crop had dropped to 49,000 acres (19,800 hectares), down from 70,000 acres (28,200 hectares), which was in turn less than 2008.
The theory from some of the cheerleaders in the cigar industry (Ahem, Cigar Aficionado) was that higher taxes and smoking bans would not affect premium cigar sales too much because, well, we will still buy expensive cigars despite all the roadblocks erected in front of us… just because we like premium cigars so much and our wallets are always full of money.
It is probably true that the Cubans are cutting back production of their lower level cigars; so Montecristo, Bolivar and Cohiba will not be affected as much – I’m guessing. It’s also true that the recession is having a significant impact on cigar sales. Actually, now that I think about it, according to Greg Mankiw’s blog:
The consumption of high-consumption households is more exposed to fluctuations in aggregate consumption and income than that of low-consumption households in the Consumer Expenditure (CEX) Survey.
Basically, what this graph shows is that during a downturn there is less cigar money; especially amongst the wealthier cigar smokers.
I don’t think it’s too controversial to claim that the goal of governments all over the world is to create a permanent recession in the tobacco industry. Through increased taxes and more aggressive smoking bans, governments are in the process of destroying the cigar industry. It will take time but, with small, incremental steps, governments all over the world are working overtime to make cigars too expensive even for the so-called wealthy people who smoke them.
Cuba cutting back tobacco acreage may turn out to be a reaction to the global recession. Or it could be a harbinger of more serious cutbacks to come.
FIGHT BACK! Join Cigar Rights of America.
At least nearly so.
According to Cigar Aficionado, smoking is banned in all L.A. County parks with a couple of exceptions:
The exceptions to the smoking ban in L.A. County parks are designated areas of recreational facilities, such as golf courses and tennis courts, which are administered by outside contractors. Additionally, exceptions to the smoking ban will also be considered for actors in different productions that have permits and for models in photo shoots the county permits.
If you are not carrying a nine iron, a racket or a SAG union card then you are out of luck.
Instead of a rant about the ever-tightening noose around smokers’ necks I will just give a link to the Coase Theorem, which, while limited in its scope to a world without transaction costs, delves into a different course of action for dealing with negative externalities. The most appealing aspect of the Coase Theorem is that it could potentially provide a framework for dealing with the (infinitesimally small) negative externality associated with outdoor second hand (and third hand) smoke that allows us to continue smoking outside in L.A.
My belief is that all those taxes that we pay for the privilege of smoking tobacco should more than make up for any possible negative externalities we may be causing.