Archive for April, 2013

A Taxing Problem, A New Cigar and FDA by Frank Seltzer

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

I am just back from NATO, the National Association of Tobacco Outlets, convention in Vegas.  This is a much smaller show than the IPCPR coming up this summer, but it is interesting nonetheless.   Because the members are primarily tobacco outlets, there were a lot of cigarette, especially electronic cigarette companies on the floor.  But that does not mean it was a cigarette show.  Nope.  Drew Estate, Rocky Patel, General Cigar with Macanudo and Altadis USA were all there along with others.


At the Altadis booth, General Manager Javier Estades was visiting with some of the attendees while smoking a Vega Fina Forteleza 2.  This is a cigar that debuted last summer at the show and combines the flavor of the regular Vega Fina line, which is a huge seller in Spain against the Cuban cigars, with some extra strength.  As Javier was busy I did not get to spend much time with him at the show, but should be seeing him later this week at the Altadis office.  By the way, another Altadis cigar that sometimes gets overlooked is the Saint Luis Rey.  These are tasty cigars especially the maduro version. There is a rumor that a new, slightly stronger SLR is in the offing, called Saint Luis Rey Gen 2.  No word yet on when it will come out or the blend…but it should be showing up soon.



The main reason I went was to hear from Mitch Zeller, who is the new director of the Center for Tobacco Products in the FDA.  Zeller’s group is set to issue guidelines about cigars.   Actually, the FDA was supposed to have the guidelines about a week or so ago.  Zeller’s group is charged with enforcing the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act that was passed by Congress and signed by President Obama in 2009.  The goal of that law, Zeller said was the noble one of keeping cigarettes out of kids hands.  Much of his talk centered on the inspection process the FDA does.

Yup, virtually ever place that sells cigarettes can be inspected by the FDA..from your local convenience store to any cigar shop.  The FDA will inspect to be certain all the laws are met and sometimes use underage kids to see if age checks are being done or if cigarettes are being sold to them.  Zeller said so far compliance on the laws is about 96% which is good.  Zeller told the group that he was working to make the FDA more transparent, letting stores know faster when they have been inspected.

While not addressing the cigar issue ( he would not comment on upcoming rulings) Zeller did seem to reach out to the tobacco industry.  One analyst attending the seminar, said she was cautiously optimistic about  Zeller’s statements and tone.

Make no mistake, the FDA is not our friend and Zeller did say he felt his goal was to “de-normalize” smoking.  However, one thing he said that was very important for all of us, was that  everyone must be involved in providing feedback to proposed rules and regulations.  In fact,  he said public comments on proposed rules are extremely important and almost begged people to provide the FDA with their thoughts.

We know the other side will flood the FDA with comments so when the times comes we must be ready too.


Internet Business Disaster Act


You will not hear this from the IPCPR and maybe not even from the Cigar Rights of America..but speaking of letting people know,  and getting involved, there is a horrible bill now passed by the Senate and heading to the House that MUST be stopped.   The bill would put local sales taxes on Internet purchases.  Called the Marketplace Fairness Act, it would subject online retailers to local sales taxes from nearly 10,000 jurisdictions across the United States.  Since many states and cities want more money, they are asking Congress to let them rob the piggy bank of Internet retailers.  It is being sold as a way to level the playing field between brick and mortar stores and internet retailers…someting cigar shops have complained about us and others for years.  Levelling the playing field is something we have heard for years regarding smoking bans.  Restaurants suffer from the bans, then they want to “Level the playing field” by imposing a ban in areas where there is none.   In this case, local shops subject to onerrous taxes want everyone else to have to pay them…rather than fighting the tax to begin with.

(By the way these are my opinions and I have not spoke with anyone at JR about this legislation).


Under this present bill, an Internet retailer would have to figure out what the sales tax rate is in your city, county and state and on what product.  It is not a stretch to imagine the states going after the tobacco taxes as well.


According to L. Gordon Crovitz  writing in the Wall Street Journal:

When a similar bill to collect online sales tax was proposed in 2005, proponents assured skeptics that the law would only come into effect after states streamlined and standardized their tax systems. A Streamlined Sales Tax Governing Board had been set up in 2000 for this purpose, but sales-tax rules remain byzantine

We take the largely free and untaxed Internet for granted, but often forget it was the rare act of politicians voting to keep their hands off that made today’s Internet possible. The Internet Tax Freedom Act of 1998 stopped the federal government, states and cities from taxing Internet services directly. Congress has always had the power to force collection of sales tax online but until now was reluctant to get in the way of the smooth operations of the Internet.


Amazon used to be opposed to the idea of collecting sales tax, but now since it has a physical presence in many states, it is now in favor or it.  The key has been if you have a presence in a certain state, then you must collect the sales tax.  This actually makes sense because if a business has a store or shipping locale in say Texas, it does benefit from the state’s services.  But if it is not in California, why should it pay any taxes to that state?  This very easily could affect Ebay users and that company is working to try to stop the bill.   This also could affect those of you who like to buy from us.  Get involved.  Contact your Congressman and say NO to the Marketplace Fairness act and help keep the Internet free.


Bottom line, you really need to be involved.


Room 101 Big Delicious

Monday, April 29th, 2013

Big Delicious is the brain child of Room 101 owner Matt Booth, and Smoke Inn owner Abe Dababneh. Smoke Inn has teamed up with various manufacturers in the past, to form what they call their MicroBlend Series.

As for marketing, hey, this is Matt Booth here (Psst! Call me <3 ). Match him up with Abe, and 70’s influenced shenanigans ensue. It is downright silly, but, when I think back to the 70’s, the flashbacks I have tie it all together. See the website for more details.

And finally… Thanks to Abe and Smoke Inn for sending me a couple samples to review.

Room_101_Big_Delicious Cigars band

Wrapper: Habano 2000

Binder & Filler: Brazil, Honduras, Nicaragua, Dominican

Size: Torpedo 6.25 x 42-54

Price: $8.95


Pre-Smoke & Construction:

The wrapper was velvety smooth, yet it had an oily sheen. Sniffing the wrapper and foot, I picked up a mild odor of wood and barnyard. There were some minor inconsistencies in the packing of the cigar, but nothing was of concern. The draw was just a tad snug, but fell within my tolerances. The pre-light draw was woody, leathery, and bitter sweet.

The ash held for over an inch, and the burn required a couple minor corrections.

1 Room_101_Big_Delicious Cigars


The first third opened up with a smooth woody flavor. Right behind it was an easy pepper, which was similar to cayenne. After about one inch, the spice developed a nice zing, and black coffee joined in. Earthiness was far in the background. The aftertaste was a subtle bitter sweetness.

2 Room_101_Big_Delicious Cigars

Bitter sweetness came through a bit more in the second third. Wood, pepper, and earthiness followed. The aftertaste became sweeter, and took on a slight creamy feel. It reminded me of coffee with a touch of cream.

3 Room_101_Big_Delicious Cigars

The last third had the same basic flavors as before. The biggest difference was the sweetness, which developed into a bitter cocoa. The pepper and bitterness became stronger as I got to the tapered torpedo head. Over all, the flavor profile was richer and fuller bodied.

4 Room_101_Big_Delicious Cigars


All gimmicks aside, this was a solid medium to full bodied cigar. Looking back on all the Smoke Inn Micro Blend series I’ve had, my favorite remains the Anarchy. That isn’t to say this is bad, it’s just completely different. I think the Big Delicious is worth a try.

Penalized for Banning Smoking? By Frank Seltzer

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

Here is a refreshing viewpoint.  A Missouri legislator has introduced legislation that would penalize towns and counties to give up revenue from businesses affected by the banning of smoking. The legislator –  Republican Representative Kathie Conway – says she is trying to protect the rights of bar owners, restaurants and other businesses.  She tells the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the businesses should be able to decide for themselves if they want to be smoke free.  If a county or town bans smoking, then the property and sales tax revenue from the businesses would not go to the municipalities but instead would go to the schools. The head of Tobacco-Free Missouri says the bill is trying to intimidate cities and counties from even considering smoke-free laws.  Damn right.


Cigars Raise Big $$$


We always hear the evils of cigars, but here is something positive.  Tuesday a week ago, the 19th annual Night to Remember Fundraiser brought in over a million dollars for Prostate Cancer research.  The effort is hosted by Cigar Aficionado’s Marvin Shanken at New York’s Four Seasons restaurant.  The live auction brought in $488,000 and then Michael Milken, the founder of the Prostate Cancer Foundation, matched it.  According to the release:

The evening was highlighted by speeches from Rush Limbaugh, who reminded the audience how important cigars are in his life, and Rudy Guiliani, the former mayor of New York, who talked about how Americans’ freedoms are being eroded, including the right to smoke a cigar. Milken updated the crowd on the progress being made in the quest to cure prostate cancer, and some of the advancements that have not only helped in the fight against the disease but are producing progress in the broader quest to cure all cancers.

Greg Mottola of Cigar Aficionado  quotes Guiliani, a survivor of prostate cancer as saying:


“When I first became mayor of New York City, we worried about things like murder. Assault. Riots. Poverty,  If they have time now to concentrate on the size of your soda and cigars, I must have done one heck of a job when I was in office.”


Ya gotta love that mayor.   Kudos to a great night and a terrific fund raiser.


FDA Still At It

The FDA has said in its regulatory outlook for this year that it will propose rules sometime this month to expand its oversight of tobacco products….you can read into that it means cigars.   Recently, The Hill – a paper covering Capitol Hill—wrote about our efforts to combat this.  The article quotes Glynn Loope—the head of the Cigar Rights of America—as saying the FDA is overreaching.


“When Congress passed the original Tobacco Control Act, it was really to address two primary points: youth access to tobacco and chemical addition. Premium cigars don’t meet that criteria,” Loope said.


Bill Spann, the head of the IPCPR, also weighed in echoing Loope’s thoughts that the act as passed by Congress was aimed at stopping youth smoking.  Spann has often said kids are not seen smoking a $25 Davidoff on the corner.  He added that premium cigars are only sold in tobacconists where you have to be 18 to even get in.

Besides the government, Altria (which makes Philip Morris cigarettes)  is also in favor of expanded government oversight.  They do not want any special treatment for premium cigars.  (Of course, Altria does NOT make premium cigars.)

There is legislation in the House and Senate to create an exemption for premium cigars.  ( The Senate version was introduced last week.)  I know many of you wrote to your Congressman or Senator last time around.  But this is a new session and new legislation.  The House version, H.R. 792, was introduced in February and has 61 co-sponsors in addition to author Rep. Bill Posey of Florida.  The Senate version, S. 772, has 5 co-sponsors in addition to the author Senator Bill Nelson of Florida.  We need a lot more to get these bills moving.

Support the CRA AND you can write a letter to your people in Congress urging them to support the bill.  This is important.   This week, the new head of the FDA section on Tobacco will be speaking in Las Vegas and I’ll let you know what he says.

Golfing and Cigar Smoking for Dummies by Steve Nathan

Friday, April 19th, 2013

Last weekend, I turned on the TV just for some background noise while I scoured through useless websites on my laptop and it just so happens that the Masters Tournament was on. I understand that this is the prestigious event where the winner gets an ugly green polyester sport coat. Really? If I want to look like my father in all those douchey family Polaroids from the 1960s, I can just drive to Kmart and buy the same jacket without setting foot on a golf course!

But as I read about how to repair a burn hole in my carpet (which I acquired from an evening of reckless cigar smoking), I found it soothing to listen to the subdued announcers whisper cute words like “bogie” and “birdie.”

I guess you can tell by now that I really do not enjoy the sport of golf. Of course, most of you will disagree, as golf is an enormously popular sport as well as being the traditional rite of passage among men who need a special day to bond with each other and talk about how they would like to shtup the head cashier at Pathmark. (Okay, I admit it, that’s just my problem and it has nothing to do with golf. Sorry!) Not to mention that a healthy round of golf is the best way to avoid the dreaded “honey-do” list, or spend the day with the wifey looking for the perfect shower curtain.

From my perspective, it just seems like such an effort in futility—driving a cart 19 miles to hit a little ball into a hole. But I do respect the sport; in fact, it is hard as hell! I even tried playing a few times (actually for about 20 minutes) and with a swing that the Bambino would admire, I still only managed to drive the ball six inches past my left foot!

So why in the hell am I writing about golf? Because I know most of you folks love it. Plus it has some very distinct advantages, the main one being that it is probably the only sport that you can participate in while simultaneously enjoying a great cigar (at least on the courses that still allow it, that is), although I hear that lawn darts and horseshoes are also perfect venues for gnawing on a stogie… but you don’t get to drive a funny cart and wear a bright-orange polo shirt with matching plaid pants. So, being the liberal-minded fellow I am, I thought I would point out what I feel may be the beauty of this great game even though a cocker spaniel could easily figure out that I am undeniably the worst person on the planet to write about golfing since I only played the for that 20 minutes and the only club that I am familiar with is the Elks. (Wow, that joke really sucked, even for me.)

Time: Look, golf ain’t exactly football. There’s no clock… although it would be interesting if another group of golfers could tackle you before you get to the next hole (which would drastically increase the TV audience). So with no time clock and 732 miles of grass, sand and lakes, you have… what? About 10 hours to enjoy at least three quality smokes before you hit the 19th hole?

Outdoors: This one is pretty much self-explanatory: You’re outside and, for the most part, not bound by those repugnant no-smoking laws. So you can take in the scenic grass (“rough”), the sand (“bunkers”) and calming ponds (“hazards”). By the way, I Googled all these terms so I wouldn’t look like a total chump.

And most importantly, you can use this occasion to drink a shitload of beer and talk about the head teller at a certain bank in Old Bridge, NJ, who has a set of knockers to die for! (Oy, that’s just me again; I better lower my dose of Cialis. Speaking of Cialis, when the moment arises, what’s the point of sitting in separate bathtubs in the woods? Wow, did I digress. Anyway…)

Cigars, Cigars, Cigars: Okay, duh… this is the only perk of playing golf that I know about. Considering that you will be lingering on that course for about the same time it would take me to walk from my house to Delaware, this is your opportunity to fire up a big-ass cigar that even the late Ernie Kovacs would marvel at. But, please, be forewarned: If you fire up a powerhouse Nicaraguan when you tee off at 7:00am with just a bowl of Wheaties in your belly, you stand an excellent chance of blowing chunks on those silly spiked shoes with the black tassels that you paid a fortune for. So before you grab your balls, know what strength you can handle when the sun is rising. I recommend starting out mild and then, five hours and 16 miles later when you are on your fifth hole and sixth beer, you can smoke that massive double-maduro five-alarm monster… and you won’t even feel it!

How many cigars? That’s totally up to you but unless you’re a real pro with an ugly green Kmart jacket, you can never totally count on having a great game. But I guarantee that you will always have a great day on the links while smoking your beloved cigar (or cigars, plural, as the case may be).

In summary, it’s always a great experience spending a beautiful spring day on the golf course enjoying great cigars with good friends. If nothing else, it beats a boring day parked in front of the boob tube or having your wife suddenly barge into the bathroom while you are primping in front of the vanity mirror wearing her strapless blue-chiffon evening gown. Trust me, that’s very embarrassing!

Iconic Leaf Recluse Draconian Blend

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

Thanks to Iconic Leaf Cigar Company for sending me a couple samples to review. From what I’ve read, this blend will be released at the 2013 IPCPR convention. There will be three sizes in a shape that they call “Sidewinders.” Prior to IPCPR, three box shaped sizes will be released at five retailers. The samples I received  were a standard robusto. What does it all mean?

Anyway, I recall enjoying the original Recluse, and it had a decent price point. Considering how rusty I am at this whole cigar reviewing thing, let’s get to it.


Wrapper: Ecuadorian Maduro

Binder: Undisclosed

Filler: Brazilian hybrid, Piloto Cubano, Dominican

Size: Robusto 5 x 50

Price: ?


Pre-Smoke & Construction:

The wrapper was oily and rugged looking, and it had a mild cedar odor. Overall, the cigar was consistently packed, with just a minor soft spot here and there. The draw was a little stiff, but I could live with it. The pre-light flavor was woody, with a bit of coffee in the background.

The burn required a few minor corrections, and the ash held for about an inch. The stiff draw loosened up shortly after lighting.

1 Iconic_Leaf_Recluse_Draconian_Blend cigars


The first third was simple, yet bold. Espresso, wood, and leather were the main flavors. Mild peppery spice was most noticeable in the aftertaste, and when retrohaling. 

2 Iconic_Leaf_Recluse_Draconian_Blend cigars

While there were no additional flavors in the second third, I noticed some nice changes. The smoke feel became very thick, creamy, and sweet. The flavors remained the same, but felt fuller in body and strength. It was harder to pick them apart, but they were all there.

3 Iconic_Leaf_Recluse_Draconian_Blend cigars

The last third went much like the second. Strength and body ticked up a notch. Everything felt fuller, and flavor delivery was excellent. Otherwise, the same core flavors remained the same. This may sound boring, but it wasn’t.

4 Iconic_Leaf_Recluse_Draconian_Blend cigars


This was a very good medium to full bodied cigar. While the flavors weren’t unique or different, they had excellent delivery. I could see paying up to $7.00. At the time of this review, that information wasn’t available. I’ll be curious when the production “Sidewinder” is released. If the flavor is anything like the Robusto, and the price is reasonable, I’d smoke more. I guess we’ll have to stay tuned to IPCPR 2013. I’ll totally be there (no really, I won’t). Bottom line, this was a good smoke!

More New Cigars and New Taxes by Frank Seltzer

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

Davidoff is coming out with a new cigar which is a huge departure for them.  The company which makes The Griffin’s, Zino and Avo along with the traditional White Label Davidoff is branching out.  All of the Davidoff cigars are made in the company’s factory in the Dominican Republic and blended by cigar master Hendrik Kelner.  All of the cigars contain some Dominican tobacco…but soon that will change.  Davidoff  had Kelner and his team work on coming up with what it calls adding to the variety of taste experiences and smoking pleasure. According to the release:

For this challenge, Henke and his team embarked on a worldwide search for tobaccos that would enable us to create a unique cigar. The search landed in the tobacco fields of Nicaragua.

Preparing, curing and ageing this tobacco for 10 years with the unique expertise of Davidoff craftsmen in the Dominican Republic allowed us time to ‘tame’ the wilder tendencies of Nicaraguan tobacco and deliver a blend with intensity and excitement and all the refined sophistication you would expect from Davidoff.

 The result is a Nicaraguan Puro called “Davidoff Nicaragua”. The line will come in three sizes, A Robusto at 5” x 50, a Short Corona  measuring 3.75” x 44 and a Toro at 5.5” x 50.  The trio will use a 10-year-old Havana-seed wrapper with Jalapa binder and fillers from Esteli, Condega and the volcanic isle of Ometepe in Nicaragua.  No word on pricing yet but they will debut at the IPCPR show this summer and will be made in limited quantities.


KFC (no troubles with THAT name_

Drew Estate, which is known for its ACID line among others, is adding to the MUWAT series…if you don’t know this is the My Uzi Weights A Ton and is made for Drew at the Joya de Nicaragua factory.  About 2 and a half years ago, Jonathan Drew and Steve Saka were smoking a Liga Privada T52 with the president of Universal Leaf when they spied a pillon of Kentucky Fire Cured Tobacco.   The three took a leaf and wrapped it around the T-52 and loved the flavor. Trouble is the leaf would not burn right.  So for the past couple of years, the Drew team worked on curing the leaf properly and now are coming out with the MUWAT Kentucky Fire Cured…or KFC as they call it in shorthand (hmm…anything else called KFC?  Oh yeah..cue the lawyers in three, two, one…)


In the official press release according to Nicholas Mellilo ,who takes care of the leaf for Drew,


“First off, Kentucky Fire Cured is from a stalk-cut tobacco. The initial firing of KFC is done at low heat between 100 F to 115 F degrees and maintained until the color reaches solid brown. Once color is set temperatures increase to 120F- 130F to completely cure down the midrib of the leaf and darken. Once the midrib is dried the temperature will be reduced and the smoke maximized with saw dust to finish the leaf. When KFC hits your olfactory nerve you know it.”


The Kentucky Fire Cured MUWAT will come in three sizes—6” x 52 Just a Friend,  5” x 56 Molly and 4” x 46 Chunky.


More Taxes


If you don’t know it, the new Obama budget presented to Congress calls for additional taxes on cigarettes and tobacco.  Federal taxes on cigarettes would just about double.  I have not waded through the whole thing to find out the cigar tax increase, but you can bet there is one in there.

Anti-smokers are almost wetting their pants with excitement saying the tax increases will drive down the number of smokers.  Couple that with more smoking band and viola no more smokers.  Gee…trouble is a couple of new studies say not so.

According to a study of American smokers by the Paris School of Economics smoking bans do not work.


…based on extensive surveys in America, [the paper] suggests that bans on smoking are not just effective but actually make smokers happier. By not allowing them to light up in restaurants and bars (as New York already does), governments give weaker-willed individuals an excuse to do what they otherwise cannot: stop smoking. As an additional benefit, bans also seem to make spouses of smokers happier.


Why?  They aren’t going out and getting hammered and smoking, they do it at home.  As for the tax increases, a paper by researchers at Cornell and York Universities looked at if higher prices would curb the younger smokers.  SO are they price sensitive?


Not very, it turns out. That is because a big share—46% of teenage girls and 30% of teenage boys—do not smoke for pleasure, but to stay thin or lose weight.

That may not be healthy, but it is rational: cigarettes appear to suppress the appetite and increase the metabolic rate. At any rate a desire to lose weight makes young smokers much less sensitive to price changes: other ways of shedding pounds, such as eating less or exercising more, are less appealing.


So smoking bans don’t work and higher taxes on cigarettes do not reduce smoking, but they are gonna try it just the same.  Bottom line, never confuse them with the facts, their minds are made up.

Benji shipping, among others, and Florida Beach Ban Toast but Not Hawaii by Frank Seltzer

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013


Back in January I told you about the Benji Menendez Majestuoso coming back out as a permanent addition to the Partagas line..  Well they are shipping now.  In talking with a rep from General Cigar, he told me that the 6” x 46 special Partagas cigar should be hitting shelves this week or next.  That is certainly good news. Since its debut in 2009 the Benji as it is called has been a spectacular cigar.  After the initial release, the line offered a toro in a bigger format, but the cigar’s namesake always maintained that the blend worked best in the 46 ring gauge.  The other cigar will be a new Prominente Benji Menendez which is bigger it will be a 7” x 49.  The cost will be just under $10 for the Majestuoso.  The Prominente will be a buck more.  The blend is Cameroon wrapper over Habano Connecticut binder with Dominican and Nicaraguan fillers.


El Rabito


There is good news and bad news.  In February at Pro Cigar I told you about a special Rabito de Cochino we were given at the festival.  You can tell the Rabito because of its pig tail head in the La Gloria Cubana line.   It was called Special Blend ADP6 on the label for the festival but now comes word that the big Rabito will be released in the next week or so.  It is 56 x 6” and if the cigar is what I think it is, it comes with an Ecuador grown Habano wrapper with Nicaraguan and Dominican fillers.  It has not been confirmed officially by General, the only thing throwing me is that the one at the festival was a 54 ring gauge.  It is the strongest La Gloria to date.   It is a step above the La Gloria Cubana Serie R, which is a great cigar by itself.  The bad news, for some of you, is that A) the cigar is very limited. B)  It will only be available in the Western United States.  The factory is only making 1,450 boxes with 20 cigars in each box.  The price will be $8.


Other new cigars

The Tobacconist Association of America is holding its convention/party this week at Casa del Campo in the Dominican Republic (this probably explains why it is tough to get ahold of people this week.)  Anyways this group is made up of big brick and mortar stores and usually gets special cigars for their shops.  According to Cigar Aficionado, there are several new releases just for the TAA members.


The Avo line from Davidoff is coming out with Movement which will cost $11 and come out in October.  The Movement will be the first box-pressed Avo.  La Flor Dominicana is showing a new Double Press Maduro for $8 and Tatuaje is coming out with the ten year, to mark its anniversary. The Tatuaje size and price has yet to be determined but word is some of the special 10 year Tats are starting to slowly leak out.

Pete said, before touring with the Jonas Brothers, that he was going to do two or three cigars to mark the tenth anniversary of Tatuaje and his 20th year in the business.  One of the cigars is a 5.375” x 48 Perfecto which Cuba calls the Britannica or Celestino Fino.  Jaime Garcia bought the molds from Spain so Pete could make it.  The other cigar is the Edmundo size, 5.375” x 52, kind of a short toro.  This is one of Pete’s favorite sizes. Both the Perfecto and Edmundo will come in his brown label blend which is also known as La Selecccion de Cazador.  He also will be coming out with the original Corona Gorda in the black label series.  Pete says all of his 10th anniversary cigars will cost $10 each.


Florida Beach Ban Dead


Some of the beach communities in Florida tried to ban smoking outside on the beaches.  Those ordinances were struck down by a court in January.  When Florida went smoke free the state set up the rules and that meant cities and towns could not put in place their own rules.  According to the Herald Tribune, the bills which would have let municipalities impose their own rules on smoking are dead for this session. But of course they won’t give up and will be working on it for next time.


Hawaii Beach Ban  Not

A new law went into effect in Honolulu, Hawaii, yesterday meant to stop smoking on the beach.  Honolulu mayor Kirk Caldwell signed the bill which expanded the city’s smoking ban to the sandy areas.  There is a catch however,

A spokesman for the city, however, said the law can only be enforced at Ala Moana Beach for now. Since the other properties are owned by the state, the Honolulu City Council needs to approve a technical amendment before the Honolulu Police Department can issue citations at the remaining locations. The change is expected to take several months. Fines run up to $100 for the first offense, $200 for the second violation within a year, and $500 for additional offenses.

The anti’s are ecstatic of course but not everyone is pleased.

Michael Zehner testified against the measure as part of the Hawaii Smokers Alliance. He is upset that people won’t be allowed to light up in certain spots.

“The fact that our civil liberties are in jeopardy. That it’s discriminatory. It makes no distinction between other types of litter items and tobacco products,” said Zehner.

This will really help tourism.


IPCPR Changing


For the past 9 years, Chris McCalla has been heading the IPCPR’s legislative and governmental issues section.   He has worked with state tobacconists to help fight smoking bans and get tax relief.  Just this year,  Chris worked hard with Arkansas tobacconists to get a 50 cent tax cap in that state.  He has been putting out fires on the state levels.  Based at the IPCPR headquarters in Georgia, his job is apparently being transferred to D.C. and apparently Chris is not moving with it. (That is convenient for state legislative work…wonder which is cheaper Georgia or DC?)  Anyway, the IPCPR advertised for Chris’s replacement on Facebook and in The Hill newspaper. My guess is he will be leaving as soon as his replacement in D.C.  is hired.  He did good work and I’l be sorry to see him go.









Strange Smoking Laws and funny Animal Tricks… Huh? by Steve Nathan

Thursday, April 4th, 2013


Monkey drinking beer

As more and more states adopt repugnant tobacco taxes in a thoughtless (and most likely devastating) attempt to destroy our beloved cigar industry, they are also further kicking us in proverbial nut-sack by creating laws that prohibit smoking in public places such as parks, beaches, bars, restaurants and, in some extreme cases, even your own backyard! But bizarre laws are a part of our worldly culture; many were created several hundred years ago but never taken off the books. I’ll bet you didn’t know that in the state of Florida, you’re breaking the law if you keep a hippo on the roof of a building. And how’s about this one from Maryland: You’re breaking the law if you take a lion to the movies with you unless the theatre is showing Brokeback Mountain, which seems to relax them. And in Idaho, you’re breaking the law if your horse eats a fire hydrant. “Trigger, be a good boy while daddy goes into Walgreens, and please don’t eat that fire hydrant!”

In Colorado, you’re breaking the law if you throw a missile at a car. Let’s all be honest, folks, didn’t you ever wish you had a missile when you are running late for work and are stuck behind an elderly man in his Buick La Sabre with a “Proud Grandpa” bumper sticker driving 25mph in the fast lane?

There is even a law in Champaign, Illinois, that (understandably) makes it illegal for someone to pee in the mouth of his next-door neighbor. “Hey Harry, turn down that blasted TV or I’ll piss in your mouth!”

Well, these same senseless laws are copiously applied to the tobacco industry. Recently, they’ve become more obvious; our whole world is becoming one big giant “No Smoking” sign. Not limited to any one state or any one country, strange smoking laws can be found almost anywhere. So, fellow “bloglodites,” let’s take a look at some of the most ridiculous smoking laws on our planet. And what better place to start then my beloved home state of New Jersey, where we are blessed with 10 months of slush, snow and rain followed by eight weeks of heat and humidity that can rival downtown Cambodia.

While a sign reading “Do Not Feed the Animals” is common in most zoos, New Jersey takes this concept one step further by passing a law that prohibits people from giving local zoo animals cigars or whiskey. But, being that cigars and whiskey are the only specifics named, it leads one to wonder if providing the animals with a nice cold Yuengling and a carton of Lucky Strikes would be frowned upon? I know we are talking about the Garden State, but since The Big Apple is right across the pond so to speak, I must mention this: On a recent trip to the Bronx Zoo, the Mayor noticed that the hippos were very overweight so he has passed a law that they can only have an eight-ounce cup of Mountain Dew with their leaves and nuts. (I promise that was the last New York giant soda joke from me. I just couldn’t resist!)

On to Indiana, then. In South Bend, it is illegal to make a monkey smoke a cigarette. This law goes back to 1924 when a monkey named Gary was found guilty of the crime of smoking a cigarette and forced to pay a fine of $25, as well as trial costs. Luckily, this primate caught the attention of Koko, Gordo and Bubbles, the finest team of monkey attorneys in the state of Indiana, and they were able to prove that he was actually smoking a De Nobli Toscani. After a grueling trial, Gary was acquitted of all charges.

The cozy little coastal town of Newport, Rhode Island, has a law that prohibits people from smoking a pipe after sunset… though any other time is fine! Not knowing this obscure law, I learned the hard way: In 1979, while attending an outdoor Iron Maiden concert, I decided right after the first set, which happened to be well past sunset, to smoke a bowl of Dunhill Nightcap in my favorite Brebbia pipe. Before I knew what hit me I was surrounded by three cops and then handcuffed and taken to the Newport police station! Deathly scared of facing prison time, I tried to convince the desk sergeant that I was just smoking weed like everyone else at the concert. The lead detective summoned a kid named Ernie, who was a salesman at the Pipe World three blocks from the station house, to immediately come down to the interrogation room, where he confirmed that it was indeed the dreaded pipe tobacco. I was subsequently issued a summons for $4.95 and ordered never to return to Newport after sundown.

In the Missouri town of Marceline, minors are allowed to purchase rolling papers and tobacco, but they aren’t allowed to purchase lighters. For 17 straight years after this law was enacted, all that these poor kids could do was to look at their stash longingly with no way to fire it up. Then, in 1976, history was made in little Marceline when a local stoner who went by the name of “Numbnutz” came up with a brilliant idea while cow tipping with a bunch of his nicotine starved friends: “Yo, dudes… let’s use matches!”

Just when you think you’ve heard it all in regards to rules, there is a law in Zion, Illinois, that prohibits owners from giving a lit cigar to any of their domesticated animals. While the law specifically names dogs and cats, it surely applies to any kind of pet such as hamsters, ferrets and goldfish. None of these pets are allowed to smoke cigars, no matter how much they beg and plead. After lying dormant for years, this law was strictly enforced in the spring of 2007 when Jake Vonderhoof and his Yorkshire terrier, Gretchen, were arrested; both were smoking a Punch Café Royal. Vanderhoof is currently serving 10 years at Leavenworth and Gretchen was adopted by a nonsmoking Mormon family in Provo, Utah.

And now for shits and giggles, let’s travel the globe for some more fun-filled tobacco laws.

Australia has a law that bans children from purchasing cigars or cigarettes. This isn’t particularly strange, as many countries have similar and very understandable regulations. However, Australia stands out because children, though they can’t purchase tobacco, are legally allowed to consume it. As long as they get an adult to buy it for them, Australian children are freely allowed to smoke a cigar in front of a policeman, a parent, a teacher or even a kangaroo. Surprisingly though, many kangaroos do not tolerate the smell of cigar smoke. On a recent trip to the Australian Outback, (and I certainly do not condone underage smoking), I was thoroughly enjoying my J•R Ultimate No. 1 in Double Maduro on a particularly gorgeous day when I stumbled upon a kangaroo who asked me in a very rude manner to extinguish my smoke. “Excuse me,” I said, “we are outdoors and I have every right to smoke!” While rubbing her massive hooves in the sand, Mrs. Kangaroo replied, “Look, asshole, my kids can’t stand the smell. Now put it out if you want to keep your balls!” Needless to say, I begrudgingly honored her request.

In France, there even is a law that affects the most essential smoker’s accessory, the ashtray! Yep, your garden-variety ashtray in the land of cheese and wine is considered a deadly weapon. You must be thinking that this is because people can use ashtrays to hit others. Well, you can hurt anybody with just about anything blunt or heavy, so why the ashtray in particular? Okay, let me explain how this started by offering you all a little known fact that is even obscure in most history journals.


Tush Grab

Aristide Briand, a French statesman who was premier 11 times during from 1909 through 1929, was most famous for his accomplishments as foreign minister during the middle and late 1920s. He was hosting a dinner for Henri Philippe Fafoofnik, a renowned French entrepreneur and the inventor of the now famous loofah sponge. After dinner and far too many drinks, Briand and Fafoofnik retired to the study to enjoy a couple of fine Havana cigars and yet more booze. Toward the end of the evening, Briand’s wife, Sofia, entered the study to see if the men would care for some pastry. Abruptly and for no apparent reason other than total inebriation, Fafoofnik grabbed Madam Briand’s tush, prompting an angered Aristide to smash him over the head with a very heavy crystal ashtray. Fafoofnik suffered severe brain damage and spent the rest of his days at the Bicêtre (the Paris mental asylum for men) dressed in a long powder-blue evening gown and entertaining himself by talking to his sock puppet, Lester. Thus, from that tragic day on, in France the ashtray was deemed a weapon.

Well, that’s all for now and thank you for letting me waste your time. All of these laws are completely true. Only the names (and most of the facts) were changed to protect the innocent.

And always remember to smoke ’em if you got ’em. But be careful out there!

General Wins,Non-Smoking Doesn’t Pay and Bye Duke by Frank Seltzer

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013

Cohiba is a name in cigars that is well known.  Like most Cuban brands the mark has two owners… the Cuban Cohiba and the Dominican version made by General Cigar since the early 1980s.  General Cigar trademarked the Cohiba name back in the 80s, but Cuba has been fighting that for the past 16 years.  Cuba has been losing the fight, but General Cigars has to keep defending itself.  The latest win for General was late last week when the US Trademark Trial and Appeals Board basically threw out Cuba’s claim with prejudice ( meaning they cannot refile).   According to the news release:


The TTAB ruled that because the federal courts have held that Cubatabaco may not sell Cohiba cigars in the U.S. or acquire any interest in the Cohiba mark, Cubatabaco lacks any property interest in the Cohiba mark.  Cubatabaco therefore has no standing to challenge General Cigar’s registrations of the Cohiba mark.

General Cigar’s President Dan Carr said, “This ruling once again affirms what we have believed all along: That Cubatabaco has no merit in challenging General Cigar’s ownership of the Cohiba trademark in the United States.”



Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it.


Ever wonder about the wisdom of banning smoking in casinos?  A couple of years ago, Atlantic City tried to outlaw smoking in all casinos. The ordinance lasted about a week and was immediately repealed after the casinos lost a ton of money.

But aren’t we always told that non smokers would flock to anyplace that banned the evil weed and the money would flow. (Restaurants, Bars, Casinos) I know this to be a crock.  Back in the 90s, I was working for Hollywood Casino which, at the time, owned the Sands Casino in Atlantic City.  As a forward-looking experiment, the Sands opened a second floor casino that was totally non-smoking.   Hollywood wanted to see if the whole non smoking thing was true. Alas it wasn’t.  We were shooting a video at the casino and were able to use the whole second floor as a studio because it was completely free of gamblers….nobody wanted to play there. The experiment did not last very long as the casino brought back smoking to the second floor and the gamblers returned.

Which brings us up to today.  Revel Atlantic City was supposed to be the dream casino.  Huge, on the beach it was an upscale place and it opened almost a year ago.  Oh and one more thing, it was sooo cool the owners decreed Revel would be SMOKE FREE.  No nasty smokers anywhere around the place so everyone could breathe easier and the gamblers would flock in. Not so much.  Revel is in bankruptcy court with  1.5 billion dollar debt.  So as the company works its way back out, one of the first thing it is doing is to open up smoking on the casino floor.

Guess those high end non smokers never came. They will keep trying though.



Bloomberg keeps on giving


When we reported on Bloomie’s latest stunt for putting cigarettes out of sight and setting up a new enforcement program two weeks ago, we seemed to have missed something.  Buried inside the legislation is a mandate that sets a minimum price for cigarettes and cigarillos of $10.50 per pack.  Hummm…wonder what that minimum pricing will do?  Oh yeah continue to have New York lead in counterfeit and bootlegged smokes  as we earlier reported NYC is already number 1 in that regard (about 61% of all sold cigarettes in New York are bootlegged or counterfeit), guess Bloomie wants to keep that record going.



Jay Z smokin

We already know cigars are popular with some musical artists.  As we reported back in February, Pete Johnson of Tatuaje fame went on the South American tour with the Jonas Brothers (all of whom are legal to smoke and happen to like cigars)  Pete’s job was to keep them supplied with their favorite Tats…smokes that is.  Well now comes word that Jay Z is going to step it up a bit.  The Rapper is going on tour this summer with Justin Timberlake and in the contract for the concerts is a rider specifying a gentleman’s club will be set up back stage….it will be a place where Jay Z’s personal cigar roller can work unimpeded.  Yup Jay Z will have his own roller. This according to the British tabloid the Sun


“Jay met this cigar expert at a friend’s private party recently. He had been hired to roll cigars for guests in a smoking room,” a source in the rap star’s camp told the tabloid. “They were chatting for ages about the origins of tobacco and all the different types and then Jay-Z offered to have him on board for the tour dates. It goes well with the nature of the tour where there’s going to be a lot of whiskey and cigars.”


And Justin Timberlake’s new single Suit & Tie which was done in collaboration with Jay Z  has a the video showing cigars and whiskey flowing freely.  Should be a fun tour.


Bye Duke


DukeYa know it sucks having older dogs and today our home is a lot emptier.  Last fall,  we had to put Jake down and Monday it was Duke.  It was a tough call on Duke because he had been frail and probably in some pain for a while, but when he didn’t want to go for a walk, we knew it was time.  We never knew just how old Duke was.


We got him in a rescue situation where a vet called us to say that he had been dropped off by his owners and since they were going on vacation they did not want to board him so they were asking for him to be put to sleep.  We immediately went up to that vet and picked Duke up and brought him home.  He was within an hour of being put down and that was 8 years ago.  He had bad hips ever since we got him but over the past few months they were getting worse.  He had trouble sometimes standing, yet other times when on a walk his tail wagged and he had a ball.  I hate judgement calls like this but I think he was trying to tell us, it was time– of course he always wanted to please.


He had a good life but still it does not make it any easier.  He was a great dog and I miss him.



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