Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Delusional Lawmakers: "Attractive To Children"

"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin

Yet another ridiculous law has been passed outlawing the existence of products which are "particularly attractive to children". The AP reports that the Gov. John Baldacci of Maine signed legislation that outlaws the sale of lighters that are "Particularly Attractive To Children". Sadly, the Governor seemed delighted to pass this 'first of its kind' law.

As I have said before, our legislators can make everything illegal under the guise of protecting children: fire, water, air, wind, etc.... Ultimately, the world is not safe for children, but that is what parents are for.

This legislation was prompted by a child who picked up a lighter and singed their facial hairs and/or face. If I had done this as a child, my parents would have told me, "that's what you get for playing with fire" and then we would have moved on with our lives. The parents in this case thought otherwise: instead of teaching their child not to play with fire, they lobbied to make the fire illegal - we are living in interesting times!

This notion of "PARTICULARLY ATTRACTIVE TO CHILDREN" seems to be the latest legislative fad in the 'Post-Smoking-Ban' era of nanny governance. It is a smokescreen for legislators and politicians to revoke freedoms while pretending to protect the public. But I am arguing that the COST is too high.

"Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both." - Benjamin Franklin

" I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it." - Thomas Jefferson

While the times we live in call for BIG IDEAS & PRINCIPLED ACTION, we are bombarded with small thoughts, selfish acts, and short-term thinking by our legislators. We are surrounded by functionaries instead of visionaries. I will take personal comfort in the John Adams series on HBO this week and remember what heroic and honorable leadership was actually like.

*My Retail Tobacconist stores do not sell novelty lighters, since we are not novelty stores. But I do believe in that every American has the right to own, sell, or manufacture them if they choose to.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Cigars & Cachao

Today the world suffers another tragedy through the passing of Israel "Cachao" Lopez. I'm no musicologist, but I don't have to be to know this is a sad, sad day. Along with his brother, Cachao invented Mambo; we should all be sooo talented. And my profound love for Cuban music was cemented when I heard the Master Sessions I album for the first time: and I fall in love with those albums every time I hear them. For years I worked 14 hour days "on the floor" and I wouldn't have made it without the music. We have played his music in my shops for decades, and now we will play it some more. I can't help but write about this topic because I have seen many living-legends die, including Celia and Compay. These one-of-a-kind human works-of-art have shaped and lifted innumerable lives. Its sad to think about so many profound losses... but perhaps invigorating too. To paraphrase some wise historical figure I cannot remember: 'every man dies, but not every man lives', and 'life is for the living'.

Remember, In the cigar business we still have a few living legends left. And we would not be enjoying our 'Golden Age of Cigar Making' without these extraordinary gentlemen and women. The oral traditions which they carry and share are the intangible glue that holds this industry together: every great cigar exists because there was a great cigar maker to manifest themselves and hundreds of years of knowledge and tradition through it. I would suggest everyone pick up the phone this week and call one of our living-legends, thank them for their Sacrifice, Focus, & Commitment. Like great musicians who lift us up with their artistry, cigar makers deserve a little applause.

PS: Until today, I had no idea when I would taste that pre-revolution Bacardi in the picture.... Gracias Hermano. Como Tu Ritmo No Hay Dos.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

pH Balance & You: content preview

The balance between Acidity and Alkalinity effects our lives in innumerable ways; from the environment, soil, and our bodies, to the food we eat and liquids we drink.

"pH" is a measure of Acidity and Alkalinity [of a solution] on a scale where 7 is neutral; lower numbers are more Acid (down to 0), and higher numbers are more Alkaline (up to 14).

We learn in Tobacco & Taste Colleges that cigars are more Alkaline and cigarettes are more Acidic: this effects the consumption, nicotine absorption, and addictive differences between the two.

When it comes to luxury tobacco, pH monitoring is critical for the Soil and even the water used for Irrigation and Fermentations. But the greatest effects of pH do not come from the product itself, but rather, from your mouth. Your palate's (tongue, mouth, saliva) neutral setting is around 7. Lemon Juice is around 2, Tomatoes are around 4, and milk is around 6.5. Anything we consume will effect the pH level in our mouth, and subsequently, the way we perceive the Taste of a cigar or pipe tobacco.

Have you ever smoked a cigar you know is good, and it just tastes "off"? Usually we just blame the cigar maker, Tobacconist, or our humidor, but, maybe it wasn't the cigar. It is very likely that our mouth can be "off".

Fortunately, our mouths/palates have the ability to restore their neutrality within a short period of time. You can expedite this process by drinking water, milk, or eating plain bread, to bring your mouth closer to neutral.

If you just finished smoking a cigar and want another, you can eat a little lemon sorbet to restore some Acidity to your palate. Ultimately, maybe you like the contrasting Acidity of coffee with the Alkalinity of a cigar; if so great. But it is good to know the facts and be aware of how our senses can be biased.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Delusional Lawmakers: NJ Senate Bill 613

This bill promises to make any flavored (except menthol) cigarette in New Jersey illegal, next week. I can only assume that cigars are next. The absurd justification for this law is quoted here:;"

“7 1. The Legislature finds and declares that:
a. There has been a proliferation of flavored cigarettes 1
8 [and other tobacco products]1 “

"PROLIFERATION"? Could this be divisive fear mongering? Sales of cloves and flavored cigarettes are less than 1% of overall sales.

“9 in recent years, and many of these
10 products have fruit, chocolate or other flavors that are particularly
11 attractive to children;”

"ATTRACTIVE TO CHILDREN"? That’s like saying Daiquiris are attractive to children!!! Will they be outlawing Rum & Cokes, Screwdrivers, Cosmopolitans, Margaritas, and Pi┼ła Coladas? Or how about vanilla extract, tira misu, and bananas foster? Many things are "attractive to children", but not necessarily for children. Not to mention that all of these things are fattening…

“12 b. According to public health experts, the existence of these
13 products increases the incidence of tobacco use among children;”

Food "increases the incidence" of eating; Alcohol "increases the incidence" of drunks; The Sun "increases the incidence" of cancer; Water "increases the incidence" of drowning; Life "increases the incidence" of death; etc...

And, WE ALREADY HAVE LAWS AGAINST CHILDREN BUYING TOBACCO! So why would you pass a law to protect those that are already protected? Would you make cars illegal because drunks drive?

Sadly, this and many other modern laws exist only to "make a point" - a political point, made only by politicians. But it is un-American, senseless, and regressive to restrict freedoms to make a point - Obviously, nobody wants children to smoke or drink.

“14 c The earlier a person begins using tobacco, the more likely the
15 person will become addicted to tobacco products and continue to
16 smoke throughout that person's life;
d. As a result, flavored 1[tobacco products] cigarettes1
17 lead to
18 increased tobacco use and addiction, higher health care costs, and a…”

AS A RESULT, this is how they weave all of that ‘special logic’ together…. Children are good, tobacco is bad, and this trumps any other value or right.

But in the process, menthol cigarettes** will remain legal, and the rights of other businesses and citizens have been curtailed to MAKE A POINT.

Are cigars next? ABSOLUTELY, my fellow lovers of the leaf!

And, I believe overweight people are next too. Eventually those that are not within the ‘normal’ weight range will have to be segregated from children. It would be tragic to have children exposed to such an atrocity. After all, the earlier a person begins eating, the more likely they continue to eat more, and eating leads to weight gain and fat people are bad for children. I can’t wait to see the creative use of language in that law…

The upside of being a Tobacconist today is that at least we are on the right side of morality, history, and the value of human freedom. After all, we are all ‘endowed with the inalienable right to pursue happiness’ – as defined by the individual, not our hypocritical nanny state.

* Personal Disclaimer: I do not enjoy or consume any of the products our legislators are trying to outlaw, but I do support your right to.

** Additional Disclaimer: In an effort to keep this blog short I have omitted many absurdities, including, but not limited to, any analysis of why menthol flavored cigarettes are protected from this new law: Don't kids love mint and menthol flavored things?

*** Further Opinionation: This is, by far, one of the most dangerous and absurd laws I have ever read. Unfortunately, it will probably pass. Laws should preserve freedoms and protect our society; they should not be self-serving instruments of manipulation and propaganda.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Stockholm Cigar Syndrome - content preview

This is a new one.... brought to you by the ever-experimenting minds at Tobacconist University.

We know how easily the mind and emotions can bias our senses, so it should come as no surprise that Everyone Is Biased and Taste Is Subjective.

I have always wondered what percentage of sales reps. actually believe all of the wonderful compliments and hyperbole they feed retail Tobacconists. Every cigar or pipe tobacco is 'smooth', 'complex', 'rich', 'sweet', and/or 'the best'. Sales reps. have mastered the art of verbal foreplay.... and sometimes it works. I have bought a quite a few dogs in my day, and I'm sure there are still a few to come. But now I'm not so sure that they are making it up.... maybe they actually believe the things they are telling us. Perhaps, it should not surprise us when sales representatives fall in love with their own products. After all, those products provide a roof over their heads and food in their bellies. It would seem natural that the 'positive aspects' of even bad products can effect our taste perceptions.

Stockholm Syndrome is a psychological response in abducted people in which they show signs of loyalty and fond emotions to their hostage-taker. Stockholm Cigar Syndrome is when sales reps. fall in love with their own bad products. The same can happen to consumers and Tobacconists who enjoy a cigar or pipe when they smoke it with the maker, and realize later that it sucks. Similarly, Havana obsessed consumers are being held hostage by romance and mythology. I won't name names.... but this has happened to us all....

Ultimately, in a perfect world, I would contend that we should all keep our opinions to ourselves until we have smoked numerous (a box?) cigars. That way we will have sampled the product dozens of times under different circumstances: this should be enough experience to truly judge a product. Now, if only I could convince my customers that they should buy a box of every cigar they want to try..... that would be good for business...