Saturday, August 25, 2007

NJ Freedom Fighting

I just sent out the following letter to Governor Corzine here in New Jersey. Thanks to the diligent efforts of Ruth and Burton Weiss of Greentree Tobacco Company, the Governor's office has become interested in how the SCHIP legislation will ruin their tax base. As most 'normal' people (non-legislators) understand, the demand for premium pipe tobaccos and cigars is elastic, and the absurd taxation proposals included in SCHIP will decimate our profession and industry.

Dear Governor Corzine:

I am writing this letter in response to the current State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) legislation which includes astronomical tax increases which will devastate the retail Tobacconist profession in New Jersey and throughout our country. Consequently, hundreds of thousands of jobs are also at stake in Central America and the Caribbean.

As the founder and president of A Little Taste of Cuba in Princeton, New Jersey, I can tell you that any significant tax increase will put us out of business. While we pay hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in taxes, we also employ eight individuals and provide health insurance for half of them. As Certified Tobacconists we are experts in luxury organoleptic products which are used in moderation by people savoring their time. Premium and luxury cigars and pipe tobaccos are delicacies which take years to produce and are touched by artisans’ hands several hundred times before they ever reach the consumer. As Tobacconists, we are honorable professionals who take pride in enhancing the quality of our customers’ lives and carrying on traditions that enrich our culture.

Please do not support SCHIP in its current form, as it will unduly punish and obliterate an entire industry and tax base. Please insist on alternative and more stable forms of revenue which will not result in adverse consequences and a decrease in tax revenues for the state.

Our entire industry is fighting this brutal tax on every level. Not a day goes by that I am not on the phone, writing letters and/or emails to combat this oppressive mistake. We are fighting in Central America and the Caribbean through diplomats, embassies, and the State Department. We are fighting through our local, state, and federal legislators as well. We have hired lobbyists, attorneys, and experts to help us all. But the biggest impact will be made by consumers who write letters, faxes, email and contact their representatives in government. Please get up off your rump and fight for your rights! Or there won't be a 'next time'.

Thursday, August 9, 2007


This is the blog I really wanted to write.

I am used to socializing with cigar makers and members of the luxury tobacco industry so the sight of grown men kissing and hugging each other is nothing new to me. The sight of children playing, roller skating, and tossing a ball while we drink and smoke is also completely common. Husband and Wife Tobacconists teams are one of my favorite things to see. And it is more common than not, to see extended families working together in our industry. In fact, I have never thought twice about it. Yet, my father helped me build my first store by coming in after work and leaving at two in the morning and my mother was my first employee! FAMILY and the luxury tobacco industry are intrinsically linked. This is how traditions are maintained and how extraordinary things are accomplished; Families working together.

So, I was a little surprised on a few occasions when my girlfriend got a little choked up this week at the show in Houston. She has been to other RTDA's with me and even visited with cigar makers, but now that she has a lot of corporate experience under her professional belt, she really shined a new light on the real luxury tobacco business. She was stunned at how many families work together in this industry. She was also amazed at how close all of us in this industry seem. I guess accountants and computer technicians don't run around kissing and hugging each other at their conventions. Katelyn had her heart warmed at this year's show because she realized why I refuse to leave this industry: We Are All Family. We Share the Same Values. And We love our Products and each other for honoring them.

Simply put, the luxury tobacco industry represents the best of America, Earth, and the Human Experience. The rest of our smoke-hysterical society could learn a lot from this business. Cherish your family, friends, traditions, and honor your time by doing your best and being honorable in everything you do.

Thanks Hon, you really shed a light on that which is important! Go get your own blog so I can get back to work.


I just returned from the 75th Anniversary of the RTDA, now IPCPR, in Houston. I thought I might sleep a full 24 hours today, but I got up bright and early. Despite my bloodshot eyes, aching muscles, and the loss of my voice, I am rejuvenated and more excited about the future than ever before. Great Cigar makers are proactively organizing and working to defeat the absurd taxes proposed by the Senate and Congress: this is truly a fight for our livelihood. For the first time ever, these artists and artisans are working hard to project the Credibility and Value of our industry, demonstrating the differences from a luxury, quality of life experience, and an unhealthy habit. We must separate ourselves from big tobacco.

The TU Seminar was a GREAT SUCCESS!! Beyond all expectations! Over one hundred people came to our public debut and the feedback was overwhelming. Tobacconists are thirsty for Credibility and we are just the organization to empower them to earn it. It seemed like I couldn't walk more than a few feet without being stopped by someone who attended or heard about it. Tobacconists were so excited I was giving mini lectures on the sales floor, at vendor booths, in the bar, lobby and even in moving automobiles. Here is an excerpt from the introduction part of the Seminar:

"Welcome and thank you for coming. It is a privilege to be here, speaking to you: Retail Tobacconists, my favorite people in the world.

No other professionals have as much passion yet fight as hard for their integrity, credibility and success.

So, Tobacconists are my favorite people...... Great American Freedom Fighters, in the tradition of our Founding Fathers, Tobacconists are preserving our inalienable right to pursue our own happiness. Not "happiness" which is defined by our government, legislators, pop culture, warped statistics, or anything else. Happiness can only be defined by the individual. By me, for me. By you, for you."

And then they applauded, so I will stop there.

As Mr. Jose Orlando Padron says: ' You must crawl before you walk, and walk before you run '. So we will heed that advice and take things slow, since every effort and decision we put in now is geared towards PRESERVING LUXURY TOBACCO FOR GENERATIONS TO COME.

As usual, we are dealing with TU specific, or big-picture topics here. If you want some day to day coverage of the show, check out David Savona's Blog on the CA website. I think he was blogging prolifically in his sleep; I don't know when he found the time since every time I saw him he was drinking, smoking, or eating.