AFGL: OSOK, Fielder & Maryland Sucks

January 27, 2012 · Posted in AFGL, Assault on Cigars, Cigar Industry, Sports · Comment 

A Few Good Links today will cover the new cigar from Room 101, why I am happy Prince Fielder is a Tiger and why Maryland sucks.

1. Jewelry craftsman and cigar maker Matt Booth has teamed up with his photographer to come out with a new blend of cigars called OSOK, One Shot One Kill. Now, if you are thinking that name is provocative let me just fill you in on the meaning: by “shot” they mean “photograph” and by “kill” they mean “killer photo.” The photographer, whose name is Edgar Hoill, is nicknamed OSOK and that’s where that comes from. If the cigar is as good as its marketing it should be great.

I like the name and it’s more understandable than one of Booth’s other cigar creations – Namakubi, which has something to do with severed heads and Samurai. I don’t have any definite plans on reviewing either of these cigars but I wouldn’t rule it out.

2. Prince Fielder did not sign with the Rangers (woohoo) but has decided to sign on as part of the one-two punch that is Prince-Cabrera. I guess if you wanted to strangle a joke out of this you could say that Prince, Cabrera and Verlander are now “Detroit’s New Big Three.” (Note to Tigers’ marketing team: I came up with the slogan so you owe me royalties if you decide to use it.)

The reason why I like this is because it puts Prince in the AL Central. The Tigers should be strong enough to manhandle their division counterparts and suppress wins enough so that none of the teams from the Central will seriously compete for the Wild Card. If baseball goes to a two Wild Card format for 2012 that means there will be five teams (Angels, Rangers, Yankees, Red Sox and Rays) battling for four playoff spots (AL West and East champs and the two Wild Card spots).

Anything can happen over 162 games but that really isn’t true. I just can’t envision a world where the Orioles or the Mariners figure out how to win enough ballgames to make it to the playoffs.

3. I’ve driven through Maryland before, it looked nice. But now I’m going to have to say that Maryland sucks because it has decided to increase cigar taxes. The size of the tax increase is a sideshow to the rationale:

“I imagine everyone’s here because of the public health side of the story,” Maryland’s Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown said. “It’s also a revenue generating story but that wouldn’t be why you’re here, but rather to focus on the benefits to health of what we’re proposing.”

Saying that the reason they are raising taxes on cigars is for health reasons is as laughable as a guy saying he has a subscription to Playboy so that he can read the articles. States who tax tobacco use want the extra revenue and the politicians who support these onerous taxes want the goodwill they engender amongst the busybody anti-smoking groups.

How to Effectively Fight for your Right to Smoke Cigars

May 30, 2010 · Posted in Assault on Cigars, Deep Thoughts · 1 Comment 

One of the most awe inspiring historical events is the last stand of the Spartans at Thermopylae. At that narrow pass, 300 Spartans (plus some other lesser known Greeks) held off the combined might of the Persians, which purportedly numbered in the millions, long enough to let the Greeks regroup and launch a proper counterattack. Due to the bravery of those brave few, democracy survived Xerxes onslaught.

Fast forward to today and we have a story that is kind of, sort of similar to that famous last stand. Every day you smoke cigars. These cigars are carefully made by skillful artisans in far flung lands that you have probably never visited. In fact, according to Jose Blanco from La Aurora, which happens to be the factory I recently visited, over 200 people are involved in cigar making process. Honestly, when you consider the gigantic operation it takes to take a cigar from seed to your humidor it is mind boggling.

And let me be clear, when I say that over 200 people are involved in the cigar making process I mean over 200 people come in direct contact with the tobacco that comprises your premium cigars. That is 200 lives that are improved by the mere fact of taking part in making your cigars.

Like the fabled Sword of Damocles, cigar taxes and bans threaten these people’s livelihoods. With each new assault on cigars, more and more of these humble craftsman lose their jobs. We are reaching a tipping point where, due to the religious fervor with which politicians attack our noble pastime, these people are losing their jobs.

Cigar factories have almost completely disappeared from America. I fear that with the zealous advance of cigar taxes and bans both here in America and internationally that there will come a time when many of the people who are now employed in the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and many other countries in Latin America will eventually lose their jobs.

It does not take an immense imaginative leap to claim that with the loss of relatively lucrative jobs working in a cigar factory that these people will have to find well-paying jobs elsewhere, like in America. Now, I’m not one of those “open borders” people but I can definitely appreciate the fact, and it is a fact, that desperate people will risk a lot to improve their lot in life.

So, if they lose their cigar factory jobs in the Dominican Republic, they are likely to move to someplace where the job prospects are better; like America. Now, I know that you, my fellow Brothers of the Leaf, don’t need any more convincing that cigar taxes and bans are stupid. But others might need a little nudge to oppose these draconian measures against cigars.

Here’s the point. The next time you have one of those nattering nay-bobs  pouncing on you for smoking a premium cigar you need to come at them with a different tact. Instead of using the all-too legitimate standby of cigar smoking being a right you need to come at them with the negative economic impact that cigar taxes and bans will thrust upon the world.

Tell them that each time the government suppresses cigar smoking, jobs will be lost abroad and domestically. Tell them that whenever another city bans cigar smoking in a bar they are eliminating jobs domestically and internationally. And that those lost jobs in Honduras will lead to those displaced workers plying their trade in America. Do those proponent of cigar bans really want more people flooding across the border? Didn’t think so.

It is actually quite simple. Whenever you encounter someone who is all for another cigar tax or ban just tell them of the economic repercussions of their stance. The whole “rights” argument just doesn’t penetrate their bigoted minds. You have to hit closer to home. Make it personal for them.

Cuba Cuts Back on Cigar Tobacco Acreage

October 5, 2009 · Posted in Assault on Cigars · 2 Comments 

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.

[SOURCE]

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.

Accompanying chart:

The exposure to aggregate consumption growth of households in the top 10 percent of the consumption distribution in the CEX is about five times that of households in the bottom 80 percent. Given real aggregate per capita consumption growth about 3 percentage points less than its historical mean during the past year, these figures predict that the ratio of consumption of the top 10 percent to the bottom 80 percent has fallen by about 15 percentage points (relative to trend).

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.

Cigar Aficionado June 2009

April 23, 2009 · Posted in Entertainment · 3 Comments 

Just got my new issue of Cigar Aficionado today and on the cover is Jay-Z. As a younger guy I’m somewhat aware of who this guy is. Rapper, music mogul, with Beyonce, and an all-around cool dude. Basically, I just know what his image is – so the part about him probably won’t be all that interesting of a read. Oh well.

The top cigar of this issue is the Padron 1964 Anniversary Series “A” with a score of 95 points. That’s an impressive score indeed and one that I would most likely agree with. My New Year’s Day cigar was a Padron 1964 Anniversary Monarca and I gave it 95 points. Since then I have had a couple of cigars I would rank higher and I will be putting those reviews up in the future.

Then I come to the Editors’ Note. It’s always one of the more enjoyable parts of the magazine for me because it’s not just an advertisement for the rest of the magazine like so many other Editors’ Notes tend to be. It starts out with a nod to the current economic problems and how the fear of today is analogous to the fear from the Depression even if the current circumstances do not arguably warrant as much trepidation. Then they talk about S-CHIP and how the increase in taxes doesn’t seem like it’s going to put a damper on premium cigar sales anytime soon (that’s just what the tax-happy Senators and Congressmen wanted to hear).

And then, oddly, they say that more taxes usually leads to a drop-off in sales for the taxed items. This I completely agree with and, ironically, may explain why premium cigar sales didn’t slack off during the first quarter. When the government tells the people that they are going to raise taxes on a product on a certain date the people will act rationally and start stockpiling those products up to the date when the tax increases. Here’s an example of that and here’s another example.

Go to page four of this report and see the affect that stockpiling could be having on premium cigars. This report is mainly about a tax on cigarettes but I think that we’ll see a lot of the same things happening with cigars during the next couple of months. Maybe the taxes on cigars will have less of an impact due to its premium status but once you couple the new taxes with a soft economy I don’t know how we will see cigar sales increase for the next few months.

Alright, that’s it. I’m going to go and read the magazine and find a better cigar to enjoy (Hoyo de Monterreys are not my favorites by any stretch of the imagination). Have a great day!!!

Update on Nebraska Cigar Bar Exemption

March 24, 2009 · Posted in Assault on Cigars · Comment 

Here’s an update on yesterday’s story about cigar bar exemptions in Nebraska; from Cigar Aficionado:

    Many lawmakers opposed the original bill, not necessarily for its attempt to exempt cigar bars, but for its vague language. They felt the bill contained loopholes that would allow businesses to stock up on tobacco products to meet the definition of a cigar bar and permit patrons to smoke.
    Since Friday, lawmakers have been fine-tuning details of an amendment that seeks to exempt cigar bars from the ban while tightening the language so other businesses couldn’t easily qualify as cigar bars.
    By day’s end today, the bill being discussed would lower the revenue figure to 10 percent, but this percentage would be derived solely from cigar sales.
    Lawmakers are expected to vote on the bill tomorrow.

Hopefully the amendment gets passed.

UPDATE (3-24-09 @ 6pm): According to Forbes, the amendment that would allow cigar bars to continue running as long as they derive at least 10% of their revenues from the sale of cigars has passed its first hurdle.

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