Friday, December 11, 2009

Humidor Setup

Monday, November 9, 2009

Stalk Priming: Content Preview

For the better part of 2009 we have been researching and studying a very unique dark tobacco harvesting method known as Stalk Priming. This is an exclusive presentation of an agricultural and processing method which has been hidden or lost to the contemporary world of cigar smokers. We are calling this content "in development" because we would like to re-create these harvesting and processing conditions and ultimately taste the final product; that will take money, time, and more effort. In addition, this is considered CMT Curriculum, or 'advanced' content which will eventually go into the testing process for Certified Master Tobacconists.

Regardless of all these details, none of the research and writing we do has any value if we do not share it, so here it is... Please feel free to comment and share.

Thanks to Jose "Don Pepin" Garcia for sharing hist time, experience, and wisdom during the develpment of this content. The astute observer may have noticed that we included a definition of Stalk Priming in The Tobacconist Handbook and TU Glossary, but this is the first preview of the academic curriculum.

Friday, November 6, 2009

"We Are Better Than Them" Bigotry

"We are better than them" is a notion that anti-smokers and the anti-smoking movement hold close to their hearts and minds. But they do not have a monopoly on that sentiment, as I just heard a cigar salesman tell me that "we are better than them" when referring to cigarette smokers.

We know that cigars and pipe smokers enjoy tobacco very differently from cigarette smokers and the products themselves are very different. But, dependency and patterns of use does not make anyone better than another.

Are you better than me because you work out four days a week and I only work out three? Are you better because you eat more vegetables? Are you better because you are thinner? better looking? have more hair? etc..... The notion that one person is better than another for the pleasures they choose, their tastes, and/or preferences is absurd, divisive, and it is the reason all smokers are losing their rights. The anti-smoking/nanny-state/pleasure-police movement capitalizes on the notion that 'they know better' and that 'they are better'. But, this is a fraud and it is the essence of their bigotry. The only qualitative measure of a person should derive from how they treat other people.

Ultimately, we must all respect each others' rights and freedoms in order preserve our own. Tobacco users are not "dirty", "filthy", or "disgusting" people any more than non-smokers, fat, or ugly people are. In fact, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and taste is subjective, so who are we to judge?

Tobacconists and tobacco lovers are clearly the besmirched underdog in this society and we are going to have to change the way we view the world in order to make significant progress. We must change our perspective, become less divisive, build more coalitions, and teach others to respect our freedoms and choices as much as we respect theirs. If every cigar lover, as 5% of the population, convinced 12 people to respect our freedoms, then we could have a chance at surviving the tyranny of the majority.

"We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately."

- Benjamin Franklin

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Tobacco Smokescreen: Distracting Bigotry

In NYC we are now fighting the prohibition of all flavored tobaccos; plus the threat of banning smoking outdoors in parks and beaches so 'children won't have to see smokers'. Meanwhile, taxation, smoking bans, and de-normalization of smokers continues to increase. Yet, we learned this year that the use of anti-depressants has doubled over the last decade and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future. Furthermore, you can walk into any convenience store, supermarket, or 'nutritional center' and buy yourself amphetamine-like drinks and diet pills, erectile aids, and five hour energy shots. Plus, I just read that the new 'hot' product on the market is caffeine laced meat!

Politicians and legislators are beating up on the tobacco industry and the people and businesses suffering the most are retail tobacconists and luxury tobacco aficionados. Yet, 'feel-good' prohibitions, taxation, and restrictions continue to be passed by local, state, and federal agencies. Meanwhile, the substantive problems of the world seem to go unaddressed. At this point, even cigarette smokers are more than paying for any societal costs associated with their pleasures, yet the government is milking them to pay for childrens' health-care - this is happening because the societal perception that cigarette smokers (or all smokers) are "filthy" or "dirty" people with a "disgusting" habit. Well, as long as our government chooses to stigmatize and punish unpopular people, I can guarantee that nothing positive or substantive will ever get done. Consumers of alcohol and fat people beware! This will not stop until we stand up and help minorities protect their choices/pleasures/freedoms, even if they are not the freedoms that we choose to exercise.

"You can only be free if I am free."
- Clarence Darrow

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Worst Freedom is OK

As a retail tobacconist I have paid half a dozen floor taxes and tax increases this year alone. The campaign against all smokers is in full effect around the globe while smoking bans (both indoor and outdoor), de-normalization, perpetual and unreasonable tax increases, continue to usurp our freedoms. But the hallmark of 2009 is the prohibitions that have been put into place by the FDA (banning flavored cigarettes) and now NYC banning ALL flavored tobacco; again, under the intellectually bankrupt logic that these products are 'attractive to children' - even though it is illegal to sell these products to children.

Today Dr. Michael Siegel, a famous anti-smoking advocate, wrote in his blog "the anti-smoking movement is very much a religious-like one and that it is based largely on ideology rather than science." Now we should be able to see things clearly; smokerism and the relentless taxation is not based on science, but rather bigotry. And smokers, along with other freedom loving people, have been saying for years that the health police/nanny state will come after soda pop, obese people, and alcohol soon enough. Well, soon enough is already here!!! Taxes and bans on fatty foods are becoming prevalent while European cities have started to ban happy hours!

Behaviour and pleasure control has never been about health, because happiness cannot be measured in years or numbers. As a society we must accept that cigarette smoking is the absolute worst personal freedom and then move on. It's OK; there will always be a WORST Freedom. But, the key to living in free and democratic societies is to preserve freedoms, not constantly whittle away at them. Today, smokers pay more than their fair share of the 'societal' (health care) costs associated with smoking; they are not a burden to non-smokers. So it must be time to leave them alone. Otherwise, our government is just punishing people who they do not like and that is reprehensible. At this point, it will be up to non-smokers to stand up and say "Enough Is Enough". Even the worst freedom is OK, now lets get on with our lives!

"You can only be free if I am free."
- Clarence Darrow

Thursday, October 22, 2009

In Loving Memory of Rudy Garmendia

It has been just over a year since our industry lost one of its greatest leaders, Daniel Miranda of Miami Cigar & Co. Danny was too young and good to leave us so soon. Sadly, today I was informed of another great loss which has come as a big surprise. One of my oldest friends, Rodolfo (Rudy) Garmendia, was killed by a drunk driver on August 11, 2009 on 836 in Miami. This tragedy is unfathomable, and statistically improbable, but true. Rudy left behind three beautiful children, a wife, and extended family. He was just 36 years old.

Just a few weeks ago I was sitting on the rooftop of the Clevelander hotel in SoBe with friends and family telling "Rudy" stories; twenty years after the fact, he had us laughing! To my mothers surprise she learned a lot more about our high school exploits than she ever wanted to know.

Rudy had an extraordinary ability to make people smile and laugh. He had a special swagger and a natural exuberance for life. He was also a classic Cuban exaggerator and ball-buster and we loved him for it! And he was a cigar lover. He was beautiful.

I'm writing about Rudy because he embodies all of the great things that I happen to love about my friends, tobacconists and cigar smokers: they have a unique gift for savoring and creating special moments. In many ways cigars add punctuation and anchor the special moments in our lives; they are part of the process of relaxing, decompressing, and savoring our time. And, while we all live and die, very few of us have the ability to create and spread as much joy and fun as Rudy Garmendia. I suppose the lesson I will take from this tragedy is to show more exhuberance for life and smile more! That is the greatest gift I ever got from Rudy. Thank you Rudy; I will miss you and learn from you as long as I live.

My heartfelt condolences, prayers, and love will continue to go out to his family and friends.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Tobacco Prohibition 2.0: Banning Flavor

nyc freedom2

Today, the New York City city council voted 46 to 1 to ban/prohibit flavored tobacco products. The ban does not include Menthol or Mint, like the FDA 'Protect Your Family from Smokers' bill, and it does not ban flavored pipe tobaccos - yet.

All of this is happening in the same city where the nanny-minded mayor changed the law so he could stay for a third term in office, banned indoor smoking, and is now trying to ban outdoor smoking in parks and beaches - because 'children should not have to see smokers'.

Where are all of the infuriated people? Where are Americans who value freedom? Individual Rights? And not just the rights you use, but all individuals' rights?

Within thirty minutes of this news breaking, I have witnessed emails, facebook, and twitter messages from industry members and not one of those messages had anything to do with the usurpation of our freedoms. Topics did include: tonight's featured bottle of wine to drink at home; something about farmville; a note about splurging on a ribeye steak because it's 'hump day'; a bejeweled score; what you are watching on TV or the internet; what you are smoking; what you are wearing for Halloween; what game you are watching tonight; who you are rooting for; and something about a golf tournament.

Sadly, many NYC tobacconists did not find out about the vote until the day before; so some of us are being rail-roaded and disenfranchised by the system. But, the real problem is our own apathy and lethargy. Where is the anger? The vote was 46 to 1!

These prohibitions started with the FDA justifying a ban of cigarettes that have a 'characterizing' flavor that 'can be attractive to children'. Yet this is the most bankrupt and illogical justification because IT IS ILLEGAL TO SELL TOBACCO TO CHILDREN. So that should be the focus - stop sales of tobacco to underage children! It's not rocket science; you don't have to be a genius to figure it out. The prohibition of products that are 'attractive to children' is the most insipid legislative trend I have ever seen in my lifetime; it is as bad as McCarthyism, Racism, anti-Semitism, and any other 'ism' which is based on an ideology of hatred and bigotry.

One hundred years ago men congregated in bars, pubs, and clubs to discuss matters of the day... at the time, most of them smoked. Yet today, we are not allowed to congregate, smoke, and talk in the same place - except for the rare retail tobacconist. And now the walls are crumbling around us.... The guiding principle behind the founding of America was 'the individual pursuit of happiness'.... so it was. What is the guiding principle behind America today?

Unfortunately, the path to freedom is wrought with challenges and sacrifice. For starters, sign The Tobacconist Preservation Act, join the CRA, get Certified, and finally, get your head out of your arse and take half of the time you spend watching TV, sports, or shopping for crap, and start fighting for your freedoms. Otherwise, all that is worth living for, the simple human pleasures, will be lost.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Cigar Myths: Body


Body = Strength

Myth: The body and strength of a cigar are the same and/or related.

Truth: Body, in terms of flavor (taste+aroma) profile, does not necessarily correlate with the Strength of a cigar. Strength refers to nicotine potency or the intensity of spice – two separate factors. Body is a flavor descriptor which can refer to the depth, breadth, and richness of a tobacco (flavor).

So, a strong cigar can be medium bodied, while a full-bodied cigar can be mild or medium strength. As an example, imagine that chicken has a mild body, while beef has a richer body, yet both can be spicy/strong, depending on how they are seasoned.

Visit Cigar Myths for comprehensive content.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Blunt Debate

blunt debate 2

One of the most recent and grotesque legislative threats to cigar smokers, our freedoms, and common sense is the Washington DC City Council's efforts to ban the sale of single cigars; because they are considered 'drug paraphanalia'. This is a legislative trend we have seen in other places and despite its stupidity, I'm sure we will see it again. So, we must address the problem with facts before it gets more ridiculous.

First, we must explain what a 'blunt' is, since most cigar smokers probably have no idea. The Urban Dictionary defines a blunt as a "cigar hollowed out and filled with marijuana." The term derives from the short-filler Phillie Blunt brand which was originally used to create blunts. The term blunt originated in the 1980s and continued to be a popular inner-city technique for smoking marijuana throughout the 1990s. Our research indicates it has faded in popularity over the last ten years.

It is important to note that blunts are made from short-filler, cheap cigars, which are available at convenience stores. Blunts are not made from premium cigars nor do they use natural tobacco leaves; they use homogenized tobacco leaf. A long-filler premium cigar cannot be emptied in the same way a short-filler cigar can and it would be prohibitively expensive to purchase a premium cigar to smoke marijuana. So, even if you think the government should prohibit products which can potentially have illicit uses, you must understand that premium cigars do not fit into that category. Furthermore, if you follow the logic of prohibiting products that can be used to smoke marijuana, then you will have to ban all paper, all plastic bottles, apples, and a myriad of other benign objects.

Ultimately, the idea of banning a product that has potentially illicit uses is absurd; by that logic you could ban almost everything in the world*. Even worse, it shows how intellectually bankrupt our legislators are and does nothing to protect citizens or our freedoms.

*This legislative mentality is brought to you by the same nanny state that believes it makes sense to ban products that are "attractive to children."..... Remember that our current legislators can take away ever pleasure and freedom you enjoy in the name of your "health and welfare".

Thursday, September 3, 2009

WITWITTH? - Where In The World Is The Tobacconist Handbook?


It took over a decade to create and our pre-marketing campaign left many people wondering, where in the world is The Tobacconist Handbook? Well, The Tobacconist Handbook (TH) is here and available at More importantly, we want to know who has the TH and would like to share your pictures with the Tobacconist University community: we are calling this the WITWITTH? Project. You can view the photos on our Facebook Fan page or Follow TU on Twitter to see the latest and greatest contributions to the WITWITTH? Project. Thank you to everyone who is contributing, and especially Jessica Padrón, who took the extraordinary photograph above.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Certified Medallion: Leveraging TU


We tell all TU Apprentices and Certified Tobacconists that getting Certified and passing the final exam is just the beginning of the process, albeit the hardest. Ultimately, Certification must be leveraged by wearing the Certified Pin and using the Certified Medallion, on business cards, store signage, and your website. After all, if you get Certified and never mention it to your customers, co-workers, vendors, and the community around you, then the benefits will never materialize. While TU is no magic bullet for what ails our industry, the ability to leverage it is a massive competitive advantage.

PS: every CRT store gets a framed diploma with their logo, store signage stickers, and the right to use the Certified Medallion as long as they maintain one CRT. Individual CRT receive the Certified Pin, a personal diploma, mouse pad, and more...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Tobacconist Handbook Proof


The Tobacconist Handbook Proof has arrived. And, it is indeed proof of our credibility and professionalism. These 205 pages, 120+ custom images/graphics, and 41,000+ words took almost fifteen years to create and then another 2,000 hours to distill into a handbook. I could not be more excited to preview it here for you. Thank you to all of the well-wishers and inquirers; it will be available in September 2009 and you will definitely be hearing more about it in the months to come. Please sign up for our email list (top left) to get the latest and greatest news!

Take a sneak peak at the Padrón Foreword.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

TU Pays CRT $100


Today we cut our first check to a CRT for certifying a consumer (CCT). While the $100 check may not lift us out of the current economic crisis, this is nonetheless an historic occassion. CRT around the world can certify consumers and earn $100 for doing practically nothing! Pure profit (less postage)!! This is what we mean when we say TU creates "new value and opportunities". So, in the tradition of retailers framing their first dollar bill, we are posting our first $100 check written to a CRT for certifying a CCT. This is just the beginning and we could not be more proud than to create value and profit for retail tobacconists.

FYI: you can read all about CCT here.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

National Media Honors Certified Tobacconists

Certified Tobacconists from across the country received national media recognition for their accomplishments in a news report today:


Gaining positive media attention is a rare thing indeed these days, and important to projecting and preserving the honor and credibility of the luxury tobacco industry. Congratulations to everyone who has been certified and was mentioned in the article. Thank you for your support and enthusiasm. And thanks to all our apprentices. We look forward to certifying all of you and watching this list grow!

Sickening Health Industry


Over the last few weeks the FDA has come out against the use of e-cigarettes, and the state of Oregon has banned them, even though these products are estimated to be 1400 times safer than regular cigarettes (see for further enlightenment). Meanwhile, a study was just released showing that the use of antidepressants in America has doubled over the last decade. Antidepressants are the drugs that affect serotonin levels, a.k.a. the pleasure center of the brain. Perhaps this is what people turn to when they are scared into giving up natural delicacies like tobacco (see Pills vs. Cigars)... I don't know the reasons why, but clearly there is something wrong with a society that needs to medicate so many people just to be functional. I can empathize with anyone taking these drugs, but I am ashamed to live in a world where they are so prevalent and the real drug pushers are multi-national pharmaceutical companies (the same companies that push nicotine replacement products - not including e-cigarettes though).

I hope we can get back to a place where a stiff drink, good cigar, or long night of shagging can cure what ails us.... Let's remember that we have lived on this planet for thousands of years without the aid of pharmaceuticals and there are many natural and traditional values and practices that can enrich and balance our lives; they include, but are not limited to: great food, wine, chocolate, tobacco, sex, sunshine, long walks, relaxation, being around the water, nature, excercise, friends and family. Perhaps, the only thing getting in the way of real pleasure and happiness is the sensationalized and fear mongering news media and health organizations which want us to buy their products. I think there was a time when doctors and health organizations were admired and trusted by the citizenry... but for me, that time has passed; I am sickened by the health industry and the fact that they never cure anything.... What do you think?

Friday, July 24, 2009

F-D-Absurdity: Electronic Cigarettes


On Wednesday July, 22 the FDA held a press conference which essentially banned e-cigarettes (definition) and tried to spin the information (as opposed to scientific data) so it seems like they are as bad as cigarettes. Dr. Michael Siegel does a great job of outlining the lunacy of the FDA's position in his article: FDA Lunacy: Product We Know Will Kill 400,000 People This Year - Approved; Product that May Well Help Prevent Many of Those People from Dying: Banned.

Clearly, the FDA, lung and cancer associations, pharmaceutical industry, and anti-smoking groups hate the thought of e-cigarettes. It seems they abhor the thought and/or act of smoking more than the negative health effects. Perhaps the thought that people actually enjoy nicotine or sensory pleasures is unbearable to the nanny state and pleasure police so they must vilify any act that resembles smoking anything.

The horrible irony is that there are nicotine replacement therapies (nrt) whose side effects are SUICIDE, yet they are just fine by the FDA and the pharmaceutical companies that sell them; as well as the lung and cancer lobbies/associations (there are too many to name them all so please allow the generalization).

We all know that cigarette smoking is the most unhealthy of all our freedoms... and it will remain that way... unless they make them illegal or allow a product that will shorten the lives of 500,000 people per year (as opposed to the supposed 400k who die prematurely from cigarette smoking). But, in a free and healthy society people must be able to take educated risks and live their lives as they please without infringing on the freedoms of others.

There will always be a "WORST" or "MOST UNHEALTHY" freedom/lifestyle choice/personal preference/activity/taste. And that should be OK. Society does not need to continually beat up and/or prohibit 'the worst' freedoms; a healthy society will just accept them and educate the population. Otherwise, the most dangerous threat to freedom is the continual legislation and pursuit of health and safety.

In the end, I don't believe that 'Greed Is Good' (to quote Wall Street's Gordon Gecko)... But RISK IS GOOD - as determined by the individual, for the individual. Risk is necessary to move civilization, technology, and individuals forward. Risk is the foundation of the pursuit of happiness - the fundamental premise behind The United States of America. Risk is good.


Dear FDA,

Please relax, smoke a cigar, and remember that WITHOUT FREEDOM OF CHOICE AND RISK THERE IS NO REWARD OR PROGRESS. Clearly you understand that when allowing the sale of pharmaceuticals whose side effects include suicide, depression, heart attacks, etc... FREE TOBACCO. LET THE FARMERS LET THE PLANTS CONTROL THE NICOTINE. And leave my coffee, alcohol, and chocolate alone too.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Hard Truth

Rostros Anonadado (Bewildered/Stunned Faces) by Eduardo Expósito
Rostros Anonadado (Bewildered/Stunned Faces) by Eduardo Expósito

As a retail tobacconist, I can unequivocally state that the last ten years have been difficult (dramatic understatement). The challenges we face are unlike any other business persons' or industry (i.e. FDA, S-CHIP, OTP, smoking-bans, tobacco de-normalization, etc...). And, if you think the last ten years have been bad... what do you think the next ten will be like?

If we don't make dramatic changes to our industry and culture, our future will be exponentially worse! This is the hard truth. While marketers, manufacturers, salespeople, and retailers tell you 'business is good', that is either a lie or tunnel vision. Business people must 'spin' positivity because negativity does not improve sales. But, just because you make money this year does not mean 'business is good'. A viable industry/business-model needs to be sustainable; we must be able to plan ahead for things like retirements, recessions, childrens' educations, growth, asset preservation, business sales, etc...

One of the worst trends that has infected our industry and political climate is the 'grandfathering' of existing tobacconists and cigar bars without allowing the creation of new ones. Yet, whenever these laws pass, our industry claims a victory because we preserved a 'business'. But we also put a nail in our coffin if no one can open a new business!

Yet another sad sign that we are in trouble is the inconspicuous nature of our customers. One of my oldest and dearest friends/customers who has a passion for cigars hides this from his own children; he takes a 'fabreeze' shower before going home and swears to his kids that he does not 'smoke'. Partly, this is because children are thoroughly indoctrinated in school that 'smoking kills' and they do not distinguish between types and frequency of tobacco use. On a similar note, I am still irate, years after a policeman went to my little sister's school, in full uniform with a badge and gun, and gave an hour long lecture about how 'smoking kills' - still no distinguishing between types of smoking and the value of human freedom and personal choice. Plus, what is a policeman doing lecturing kids about smoking?

So, without writing a book here.... I would like to end on a positive note... since I have devoted myself and resources to the preservation of the luxury tobacco industry and retail tobacconists. I am not a negativist! Our path to salvation will not be easy. First, we must join and support the CRA in order to fight the short term battles and legislative momentum. Next, we must get Certified, and project our credibility!!! But, when we say 'project our credibility', we do not mean sit around with other cigar/pipe smokers and talk about how good or knowledgeable we are! Projecting our credibility is about making non-smokers, friends and family, and the society we live in understand and RESPECT our profession, passions and choices! Make converts out of non-aficionados! If every cigar and pipe smoker convinced 10 people to respect our rights, then we would still have our rights!

Final Note: Part of the TU Mission is to "research, learn, and teach in order to educate ..." and our Vision is to "build and project the credibility of the luxury tobacco industry in order to gain cultural acceptance around the world..." With that said, we are not beholden to any person or business. We are an independent educational institution with a clear mandate to speak the truth: the truth as we see it - not the 'truth' as devised or spun by marketers or business people. We receive no money from the IPCPR and our Sponsor(s) know that they are funding free education and certification without infringing on our Vision and Mission: perhaps, this is why we only have one sponsor. But, you can rest assured that TU will continue to research, learn, and teach while delivering the truth and working to build the credibility we will need to survive... for generations to come. Ultimately, we will only be successful if you and the rest of the industry participate. So, what are you doing to ensure the survival of the luxury tobacco industry?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Einstein Smoked!


Yes, it's true, Einstein smoked: pipes and cigars.

Albert Einstein's contributions to modern science are so extraordinary that it may take generations and hundreds of years for science to catch up with his theories on space, time, gravity, light, physics, etc... Ironically, Einstein had speech problems as a child and was probably missing portions of his brain, while other parts seem to have 'compensated' and given him extraordinary thinking, visualization, and conceptualization abilities. In fact, we are all a little bit like Albert Einstein in that our brains have different strengths and weaknesses and there are many different ways to be 'smart'. Intelligence takes on many different forms and varietals.

Photo from Fortune Magazine March, 6 2000.
Albert Einstein, Berlin, Germany 1931. Photo from Fortune Magazine March 6, 2000.

Albert Einstein claimed that he thought through images, rather than verbally. That is why he spent much of his time ruminating, meditating, thinking, and walking the grounds of the Institute for Advanced Study and Princeton University, with a pipe or cigar in hand, of course.

As the proprietor of the retail tobacconist in Princeton, NJ, I like to think that Albert Einstein would be a customer if he were around today. After all, many of Princeton's esteemed intellectuals and luminaries are my customers, and they love their luxury tobacco. But this is not just a 'puff' piece about smart people smoking tobacco. Luxury tobacco is something we use out of choice, not addiction. Furthermore, we smoke great cigars and pipe tobaccos to savor our time, ruminate, decompress, gather our thoughts and emotions, and revitalize ourselves, among other reasons.

Just as our 'brains' are different, so are the things that bring us pleasure, happiness, joy, and peace. America's founding fathers recognized the inherent importance of individualism and freedom, so they anchored our country's constitution and values on the 'individual pursuit of happiness' and human freedom. For better or worse, good, bad or indifferent, human beings must be free to choose their own destiny and guide their own lives.

What would Albert Einstein think about S-CHIP, FDA tobacco regulation, extreme tobacco taxation, smoker demonization, smoking bans, and tobacco denormalization? Where would civilization be without Albert Einstein's genius? Who or what power has the legitimate authority to tell him (or us) how to think? What to enjoy? After all, we hold the truth of human freedom and equality to be self-evident.

The greatest tragedy to result from smokerism and anti-smoking laws will never be known. The greatest cost from impeding human freedom is the opportunity cost: those things, ideas, moments, realizations, and appreciations that will never exist, because the opportunity was lost. But these losses, while intangible, are as real as light, gravity, and time. Ultimately, every law that restricts individual freedom and choice retards our culture and undermines real progress and quality of life.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Junk Science of Tobacco Control

Dr. Michael Siegel wrote a great article last week titled:

Around the year 2000, as smoking ban laws gained momentum, 'big tobacco' (the only people with the resources to fight) seemed to stop challenging any of the extreme, ridiculous, and unfounded propaganda released by the anti-smoking and tobacco control movement. So, for almost a decade we have been bombarded by exaggerated claims, fear mongering, and extreme taxation and legislation furthering the goals of tobacco de-normalization.

I will leave the commentary and analysis up to Dr. Siegel... but I would agree with his assessment that the tobacco control industry has run amok and there is no one (substantively) standing in their way. Just yesterday I saw a nicotine gum advertisement where they encourage people not to stop smoking cigarettes 'cold turkey', even though this is the most successful method. Instead, they encourage you to use the nicotine gum and tell you you will have 'a higher success rate'; while in tiny print on the bottom of the screen it says 'over a placebo'.... Meanwhile, the image of the cold turkey quitter is of him walking off a cliff/building... as if he is committing suicide by quitting 'cold turkey'... Someone/thing needs to keep big pharma in check and who better than big tobacco?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

National Nestor Miranda Cigar Day: Friday June, 12

Miami Cigar & Co. and Nestor Miranda will be celebrating their 20th Anniversary on Friday June 12th at over 500 retail tobacconists across America. Any customer who purchases ANY cigar at a participating tobacconist will receive ONE Nestor Miranda Special Selection Danno 20th Aniversario cigar for free; as a token of Miami Cigar & Co.’s appreciation and their commitment to consumers and tobacconists. This could be the biggest and best giveaway our industry has ever seen! And it could not come from a more extraordinary group of people and company.

Miami Cigar & Co. is the world’s only fully certified salesforce of CST. Both their in-house staff, salesforce, and Nestor Miranda himself are all TU Certified Tobacconists. Their leadership, generosity, and commitment to consumers and tobacconists is unparalleled in this industry.
You can visit Nestor Miranda Cigars to find a participating retail tobacconist.

In my continuing efforts to be brief, I will refrain from writing a book here… but I would like to add that there are few companies or people with the character and integrity of the Miranda family and Miami Cigar & Co. All you have to do is google Nestor and/or Miami Cigar & Co. or read through the Cigar Aficionado archives to learn what character and perseverance are all about. Congratulations to them on 20 years of excellence… we are looking forward to the next 20!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Voice of Freedom

# 53
2009-05-20 15:00:42
Tomasch, Nathan

"As a proud member of a nation founded upon freedoms that once were the envy of all other nations, I am distraught over the over-reach of current tobacco laws. Regulation of the sale and use of a legal product should be minimal and logical and it is my perception that the current taxation and penalty conducted in regards to tobacco usage is skewed and unevenly discriminatory towards the tobacco smoker. The details can be discussed later. At hand now is the final bastion of tobacco use that isn't marred by a false sense of shame and guilt; the tobacconist's. Surely consumption of tobacco at an establishment catering to such would seem self-evident! Any attempt to cease the legal and adult consumption of tobacco at a tobacconist's will be met by fierce protest and resistance. Even us smokers, self-apologetic and crippled by law, will not tolerate this final offense to our civil liberties and legal choice."

I think this comment says it best... posted here with permission from Mr. Tomasch. Sign the TPA.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Cigar Culture Wars

This week Cigar Rights of America (CRA) reported that the Cancer Action Network (lobbyists for American Cancer Society*) are about to spend $3 million dollars over the next few months to lobby the administration and Congress to increase taxes on cigars and other tobacco products. Absurdly, this is happening just weeks after the S-CHIP tobacco tax increases that will fund health care for people making under $80,000 per year. The Campaign for Tobacco Free kids noted, "There is plenty of room to go [for taxes] for cigars and smokeless."

You must see by now that tobacco taxation is not really about using the money to recoup societal costs incurred by smokers. Sadly, it is estimated that only 5% of tobacco tax money is used for health care, cigarette cessation and education programs! Clearly, this level of extreme taxation is a punitive measure used to penalize a minority of people who do not conform to 'dictated' norms. In fact, the de-normalization of smokers is nearly complete as in California it is almost illegal to smoke outdoors on public sidewalks. And the hysteria and lies regarding second hand smoke has people believing smokers are dangerous and dirty people. Yet, any open-minded person who has ever read beyond the first page of the Surgeon's General report on ETS must find smoking bans perplexing and unjustified.

Sadly, tobacco taxes and smoking bans will continue to increase because they are politically expedient. Over the last two decades our economic, political, scientific, and ideological arguments have failed to preserve individual, business owner, and tobacco user rights. Just take a look at how many republicans vote for smoking bans, declining rates of return on increased taxation, and the fact that smoking rates are relatively flat.

The increased persecution and taxation of tobacco users defies logic. It is about ideology. This is a cultural war against a certain 'kind' of people. And apparently, I am one of those people. Yet, cigar smokers only represent about 5% of the population - we are a bonafide underdog. That means each of us will need to convince at least 11 people to respect and support our freedoms, just to survive. In addition, as cigar and pipe smokers, we must proactively support the CRA as they are our infantry which battles the local, state, and federal government on a daily basis.

However, winning political battles will not be enough either. The anti-smoking movement is funded and organized beyond reason and comparison to any other political farce (sp?). They have waged a cultural war and we must meet them with commensurate force. The only force capable of resisting this movement is the value of freedom, inherent to being American. And the only way to change the culture is through education. So, Tobacconist University continues to build and project the credibility of our industry - endeavoring to preserve luxury tobacco for generations to come. There is a lot of work to be done and we must start yesteryear. Please join the CRA, convince 11 people to respect you, and get educated - sign the TPA, share & communicate, and learn something.

* Yes, it's true, American cancer has a society and lobbyists. And if they have their way, all of the delicious carcinogens and smoke surrounding this steak will eventually be taxed, controlled, and eliminated as well.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

De La Concha + Padron = Excellence

On Thursday April 23rd I had the privilege of attending the Padron event and dinner at De La Concha Tobacconist, indubitably one of America's greatest tobacconists. De La Concha's GM and soon to be Certified Retail Tobacconist Ron Melendi was gracious enough to invite me to the event, feed me, and give me the opportunity to learn from the best. As anyone reading this article knows, Padron and De La Concha are the best at what they do, simply because they focus on two things: Products & Customers. It is in their blood; you can see it in their eyes; it is palpable and you can feel it when you are around them. They are focused and committed to the point that they are inspirational.

I think what inspires me the most in this case is the extent to which a great tobacconist will go to provide their customers with extraordinary service and value. Mr. Melendi has started the tradition of turning his retail store into a fine dining restaurant in the middle of NYC since the anti-smoking laws have become so draconian and repressive. He could easily not provide an extravagant dinner event and merely settle for an afternoon visit from a cigar maker. But, he is not the type of person to compromise or give up. Instead, De La Concha closes their store early and transforms their already elegant retail environment into an extraordinary fine dining restaurant, served by nothing less than the best, Rue 57, located just up the block. What other business or group of professionals would go through such trouble to provide their customers with this kind of value? I don't know of any other profession that goes to these lengths to serve.

Ultimately, it was a privilege to attend the event and meet so many great tobacconists. Ron and the other exemplary tobacconists at De La Concha will go down in the annals of history as the best and most committed professionals who refuse to be beaten, stifled, or compromise. It was an honor to see them in action.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Salt: The New Smoke?

I'm sitting at my desk on a Sunday afternoon working on my monthly retail taxes. This paperwork nightmare takes about six hours since the state governments don't seem to understand the concept of streamlining or efficiency. Much of the information I have to provide is redundant and/or useless... but I persevere because I love being a retail tobacconist. In a momentary diversion I noticed an article (and an even better article) on the internet about NYC mayor Bloomberg and the 'health' dept. rallying against salt and launching new efforts to curtail its use - not just in NYC, but across America! First they banned smoking, then trans fats, and now they are focusing on salt. All of this comes from a democrat, turned republican, turned independent who changed the state law so he could stay in power for another term. I feel like I'm living in some horrible version of the future I had nightmares about ten years ago. I fear that our nanny govt. will be dictating our weight, complexion, taste, language, opinions, and clothes ten years from now. In the year 2019 our supermarkets will probably be void of food and filled with nutritional pills made by some non-governmental organization (i.e. partnership between pfizer & con-agra), just because our legislators and health zealots deem it in our 'best interest'.

Smoking was the gateway civil right, but we are well past that now. In the midst of our economic recession all I hear politicians talking about is new taxes and laws. Whereas, I would just like to see the old laws work, govt. made efficient, individual liberty/choice/freedom preserved, and the slavery of 'sin' taxation abolished since it is unfair (albeit politically expedient). It used to be republicans would fight smoking-bans, excessive taxation, and the usurpation of our individual liberties... but today, there is no difference between the political parties in office; they are just two sides of the same coin serving lobbyists and manipulating public perceptions with junk science and a 'holier than thou'/'we know better' mentality.

I, for one, would like more options come election time. I would like to see a (cigar smoking, salty french fry eating) politician who runs on the platform of no new taxes and laws. Just a simple leader who believes in correcting the path we are on. Someone who is not afraid to look inward at the bureaucracy and make if work, instead of compounding the problems with ad hoc solutions, feel-good laws, and obfuscations. But, above all, I want to vote for someone who believes in Education vs. Legislation! Because all people are born free and the American government should be in the business of preserving that.

Sadly, I don't have a better solution as I am still waiting for the greatest minds of our time to stand up and return this great country to the vision of our founding fathers. The best I can do is fight for what I believe in and put my money where my mouth is by fighting to preserve the retail tobacconist profession - that is why Tobacconist University exists. At the very least, we should all be members of the CRA and never lose sight of the fact that individual liberty (freedom) is the greatest human value.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Dr. Shoplifter - 3.23.2009

This shoplifter stole over $150 worth of cigars in two visits on the same day. You will notice he has handfuls of cigars before he leaves the humidor and then magically appears at the register with just ONE cigar. You can follow the video clock to see the time-continuity. He takes advantage of a blind spot at the door to shove the cigars in his pockets, knowing that no camera or person can see him. And the fact that he was a friendly and regular customer kept tobacconists from suspecting him of being the scumbag that he is.

Go to the TU Forums for more Shoplifter Content. We are building a Most Wanted section for retailers to submit their pictures and information. Hopefully we can all learn from these experiences and catch a few of these criminals. I have put Wanted posters with his picture up in my store and will begin the prosecution process. Unfortunately, local prosecutors and judges have never been able to get any kind of significant restitution to us. Years ago we prosecuted a $1000+ thief and handed over all the videos, but the prosecutor, for expediency sake, simply prosecuted the one easiest theft, so the judge awarded us about $19.80 - which is insulting considering it takes hours just to compile the video footage.

Ultimately, shoplifting is the killer of all retail, and having a walk-in humidor makes tobacconists particularly vulnerable. Yet, many tobacconists like myself take great pride in providing the walk-in environment to our customers. I can only hope that we will be able to continue to provide this special service and that our customers and vendors will appreciate the sacrifices we make to be the best retail tobacconists we can be.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Best Sommelier in America 2009

Last Monday I had the privilege of being a (cigar) judge at the American Sommelier Association's Best Sommelier in America 2009 competition in NYC. It was an extraordinary and significant experience on many levels and for several reasons.

First, I had the opportunity to spend the day with my host, who I affectionately like to call 'America's Tobacconist', Mr. Michael Herklots, the GM of Davidoff of Geneva stores in NYC, as well as another great tobacconist, Mr. David Kitchens, GM of Holt's. Just spending time with two extraordinary tobacconists would be enough to make it an educational and rewarding experience. But, the most educational and rewarding part was watching and learning from America's Best Sommeliers. The four finalists exhibited extraordinary professionalism, knowledge, and panache while performing for the wine and cigar judges. In particular, it was inspirational to see the world's greatest professionals competing to be the best. Their focus, intensity, and commitment was impressive, to say the least.

Ultimately, the fact that there is a cigar part to the Best Sommelier in America competition is probably the most significant point to make. The American Sommelier Association and their President, Andrew Bell, honor our industry by including cigars in the competition. By doing so, they acknowledge and reinforce the fact that cigars are an organoeleptic delicacy worthy of study and enjoyment, just like great wine and food. This simple fact should not be lost on tobacconists and consumers. Unlike the wine industry, tobacconists are swimming upstream against a torrent of taxation and repressive legislation every day. As we move forward, our survival will depend on our ability to build and project our credibility, which is why TU Certifies Tobacconists. There is much to learn from the wine industry and sommeliers.

Best Sommelier in America 2009
Michael Engelmann
Gary Danko, San Francisco

First Runner Up
Fernando Beteta, M.S.
NoMi, Chicago, IL

Second Runner Up
Inez Ribustello
On the Square, Tarboro, NC

Third Runner Up
Hristo Zizovski
Restaurant Jean Georges, NYC, NY

.... but, of course, they are all winners in my book...

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Smoking Bans: A Moment of Truth

The most definitive study to date concludes that smoking bans in all fifty states of America have had no impact on heart attack admissions and mortality rates. The study, conducted by researchers from the RAND Corp., Congressional Budget Office, University or Wisconsin, and Stanford University, concludes that workplace smoking bans have had no effect on heart attack rates and there are as many areas showing decreases in heart attacks as there are showing increases! So much for the junk science and fear tactics our legislators and public policy makers use to justify usurping our freedoms. You can read of the The Rest of the Story by Dr. Michael Siegel.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Double Our Business - NOW!

It's simple math, really - just convert 10% of cigarette smokers to cigars and you double the size of the cigar industry. This is our reality, and in the process we can help enhance the quality of life for millions of Americans.

I continue to believe that tobacconists are modern day freedom fighters, enduring torture, demonization, and endless taxation for their beliefs and passions. If you don't believe me, just note that today is April 1st, 2009 and tobacconists all over America are being slapped with massive tax and cost increases on their products. The inventory, paperwork, price changes, and customer implications are brutal. Is there any other group of business owner or consumer being as severely taxed, legislated, and debilitated? And in this economy! It's pathetic. But, there is hope! Now is the time to help our cigarette smoking customers end their allegiance to inhaling.... Particularly if they are consuming products laced with chemicals and additives. They will thank us for it. Help someone savor their time and they will be a customer and friend forever.

PS: Dear legislators, politicians, government people; please stop taxing us to death. And by 'us' I mean all Americans, but especially those in the luxury tobacco industry.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Healthy Freedom?

The Rest of the Story blog by Dr. Michael Siegel is now reporting that obesity is becoming a bigger health threat than cigarette smoking. And judging from all of the new 'fat taxes' and social discrimination, that should thrill our health zealots and nanny legislators. I have been writing for years about how smoking is the gateway civil right, after which the rest will crumble. After all, freedom comes with inherent risks and individuals should be allowed to define their own pursuit of happiness; as opposed to having it dictated to them by the government, big business, and the health control police.

For those of you who don't know, Dr. Siegel is an anti-smoking health advocate who has supported workplace smoking-bans; but he has rallied against the pseudo-science, lies, exaggerations, employment discrimination, and science by press release, strategies used by the tobacco control movement. (If you don't read his blog, you should do so daily as it is one of the only near even-handed and honest publications about tobacco and tobacco control.) Furthermore, employment discrimination against smokers is becoming a big trend in America and it is shameful.... and now overweight people are next... when will Americans remember what it means to be an American? If we are to be a free people, our government must allow us to be free; consequences and all....

Note: the painting used in this blog post was owned by ArtistaCuba (a company I own) and is now owned by Bam Margera, another freedom loving American. If our legislators read this, they will probably think themselves geniuses to enact a tax on art which depicts anything unhealthy!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Cigar Shoplifter: Senior Citizen X

I can't put into civilized words how gut wrenching it is to watch people steal cigars from my stores. Every Tobacconist with a walk-in humidor experiences significant theft and it is a f&%^#ing nightmare.

Its a shame that this animal will probably never be caught, but I will do my best nonetheless. What drives me nuts is that he doesn't need it... he just WANTS it... feels like he DESERVES it.... And the worst part is that I am knee deep into rising health insurance costs for four of my employees and I am sick to my stomach about what I am going to do. They are raising our premiums another 20% this year and its brutal... my Tobacconists rely on our health insurance and the next cheapest alternative plan will require a $1,500 annual deductible... which is practically like not having health insurance at all. I'm sick to my stomach trying to provide health care to people that deserve it and este pedaso de mierda me esta robando... me cago en su ma..... Oh, sorry, my anger deviated me into Spanish. Anyway... this sucks.... But I'm onto you grandpa.... coming for ya.... no mercy.... Actually, this is all bluster because the police and prosecutors (in New Hope, PA) barely bother to defend retailers rights.... but that is another blog.

Other videos of senior citizen shoplifters can be found here.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Tobacco Beetle Video

I do believe this is the world's most extraordinary tobacco beetle video. Of course, you will learn everything you need to know about tobacco beetles and how to eradicate them, but there is more....

WARNING: this video documents the intentional decapitation of a tobacco beetle pupa; the voracious creature that ruined the cigars you see on camera. Admittedly, this is a deviation from our other educational videos, in that we normally would not harm a living creature or add sound effects to enhance the experience. But, anyone who has ever experienced a beetle infestation knows the heartache and emotions involved. Furthermore, there are practical considerations, as a beetle cannot be allowed to live and procreate. So, it had to be done.

We have done a lot of bizarre experiments at Tobacconist University, including growing cigar mold, freezing cigars and smoking them, switching wrappers, and more.... all in the pursuit of knowledge in order to share and teach. But, growing a tobacco beetle infestation has to qualify as one of the most bizarre experiences to date. I hope you enjoy the video and learn something too.... there is plenty more content on L. serricorne in the TU FAQ.

TOBACCONIST ANECDOTE: About twenty years ago, a Tobacconist in a major market in the United States was having beetle outbreaks in one of their humidors. They were losing cigars on a weekly basis and didn't know how to kill the beetles. To remedy the problem they would put lizards (geckos I think) in the humidor at night and collect them in the morning. From their point of view, this seemed to work. But, the problem was trying to catch the lizards in the morning. I can only imagine the challenges... apparently they are slimy and fast. Anyway, being protective of their cigars and diligent in their pursuit of the beetles, the Tobacconist starting tying the lizards to a string at night, so they could be caught in the morning. I think things went well for a while, until they found the lizard hanged and lifeless one morning. Whether the lizard killed itself intentionally or suffered from a terrible accident will never be known. Fortunately, we have better information today and consumers and Tobacconists alike know where to get educated.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Great Humidor Catastrophe of 2009

No matter how much you dote on your cigars and humidor, there are always events and malfunctions out of our control. Last month the hygrostat (humidity control) in one of my walk-ins failed to work properly. Over the course of one night the humidity shot up into the nineties and devastated several hundred dollars worth of cigars. Fortunately, most of the cigars that were hyper-saturated survived without permanent damage. As you can see in the picture above, the cigars were laid out on paper towels to dry the wrappers and help them return to normal humidity levels. Fortunately, the few hours they spent in 90+% humidity did not ruin all of the cigars. Had this happened for an extended period of time, all would have been lost. However, a few dozen cigars did not make it through the night. Mostly, they suffered from wrapper damage which resulted from expansion. Most bulged and tore at the foot while others burst in the center. Some of the cigars were permanently disfigured as they contorted while expanding and contracting.

On The Bright Side
I have been smoking the aesthetically damaged cigars for over a month now and I can honestly say that their flavor+aroma qualities have not been significantly effected. While they may be ugly, they are delicious. As a professional Tobacconist, I am used to smoking damaged cigars. Some months I smoke nothing but damaged cigars. Its not so bad really.... life could be worse.

While extreme humidity can ruin cigars by fostering mold growth or drowning the leaves, it is not always a total loss. Remember, cigar tobacco is rolled at much higher humidity levels than 70% - usually in the 80-90% range. So, they can be resilient enough to recover.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Facebooking Phenomena

Have you noticed the cigar industry emerging on Facebook? Lately it seems like everyone is getting in on the action of this social networking tool: everyone from the 'old-timers' to the 'whipper snappers'. Whether you are the IPCPR, Tobacconist University, a cigar brand, cigar maker, or just a cigar lover, our industry is beginning to Facebook. I feel like I'm late to the party since I don't have any extraordinary technological know-how, but I may in fact be early. I say this because a huge percentage of Tobacconists don't even use email, so I think we are just beginning to scratch the surface of Facebook's potential. So, let me emphatically say that I have no idea what I'm doing on Facebook, but I am enjoying every minute of it....

Recently we added a TU group and I created a group for my retail stores. While I don't really have any goals for these endeavors, I do know that it is important to connect and build community. Perhaps that is the purpose of being on Facebook! I would argue that you don't need a goal (i.e. # of friends or members). All you need to do is put yourself and/or your company out there and connect with people. See what they are doing and learn from it - let the users generate the content. The upside is that we build a stronger community and industry!

So, if you're on Facebook, friend me up*.....

Of course, there is always a downside. Firstly, no matter how private Facebook seems, it is still a public forum and one should comport themselves as such. Second, and VERY IMPORTANT, is the fact that Facebook considers anything you post as [practically] their property! Facebook reserves the right to reproduce and license anything you post on your page, even after you terminate your account. So, watch your mouth! And keep your intellectual property off of Facebook!

*Disclaimer: for now, I am only friending human beings....

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Clean & Organize: content preview

"Clean and Organize", while it sounds like simple common sense, there is nothing common about common sense and the simplest things can be the most profound.

Cleaning and Organizing can be the most powerful business practice you employ. If business is slow, clean and organize; if the weather is bad, clean and organize; if the country is in a recession, clean and organize; if you are bored, clean and organize. On the surface, the benefits may seem obvious: the store is cleaner, customers see you cleaning (positive perception), and things look better. But the real benefits of cleaning and organizing can be far greater. I have found thousands of dollars worth of 'missing' inventory while cleaning. More importantly, cleaning and organizing allows you to discover hidden assets, liabilities, and opportunities in your retail store (or any other business). Every basement, storeroom, shelving, closet, cabinet, drawer, and shelf in your store can reveal a hidden opportunity. Sometimes you will find old displays which can freshen up the shop, or products which have long been forgotten. But, the greatest benefit from cleaning and organizing is not the things you will find, but the potential ideas you will have. Nothing clears the mind like a fresh environment or good organization!

Whether you are a shop owner or manager who does this yourself or delegates, the rewards are always positive. Try to Clean & Organize and let us know if you discover anything special! Leave some comments on the blog or send us an email.... we would love to hear from you.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Super-Events: Outlaw Cigar Co. - content preview

Offering anything different from the usual store operations can constitute an Event. The key to having a successful event is communicating it to your customers! Even those that do not attend will appreciate the service and recognize you as a vital business who strives to please their customers.

Something as simple as providing coffee, donuts, and a newspaper on a Sunday morning can be marketed as a “Cigar Brunch” while cigar makers, food, live music, and endless other novelties can be brought together to create a Super-Event.

While most Tobacconists may be satisfied to organize intimate events with 10 to 30 customers, others can be more extravagant. The Super-Event is defined by its scale and ambition. Perhaps any event that extends beyond the physical boundaries of you store can be a Super-Event. While Super-Events may be hard to define, you will indubitably know one when you see it.

Case Study:
The Outlaw Cigar Co. in Kansas City, MO has monthly events which draw thousands of visitors. Located in a suburban mall, The Outlaw utilizes its parking lot (and store) to create what is America’s biggest and most exciting regular cigar party. While this type of event may not viable for all Tobacconists, it is the ultimate example of what extraordinary (Certified) Tobacconsits, organization, and leadership can accomplish.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

HealthScare Ping-Pong

Just one week ago the media was disseminating the good news about a new study that showed one cup of coffee a day reduced the risk of oral cancer by 50% in both normal and high risk individuals.

As a coffee drinker and cigar smoker, I thought this was excellent news. While drinking coffee comes easy to me, I am constantly grumbling about having to work out and eat healthy.... so I was quite thrilled about the newly discovered benefits of coffee.

Today, I tuned into AOL and saw this:

And, for a second I almost felt bad for the coffee industry. I was thinking, 'here we go again; sensationalized headlines touting something else to be afraid of".... And, then I remembered, "I'm in the tobacco industry!!!".... No one gets more beat up, demonized, be-smirched, taxed, legislated, and scapegoated than us.

The fact is, health and safety are big businesses... and there will always be contradictory, conflicting, or sensational claims on every side of an issue. One day meat is good, another it is bad. Sometimes alcohol is good, other times it is bad for you. And the news media loves reporting anything dramatic; and reporting everything dramatically. And it certainly seems like negative and scary things get much more play - notice the AOL header: 'Don't Drink That Coffee'. While positive (non-scary) topics get more mundane exposure:

Sadly, fear and death sells (just watch how easily legislators pass anti-smoking laws). People 'click' on scary articles and 'stay tuned' for negative news. In our fast paced world, it can be very difficult to get 'the real story'; today's 'real story' is tomorrow's lie - and vice-versa. I suppose the best thing an enlightened citizen can do is stay educated and open-minded, practice tolerance and moderation and avoid harsh knee jerk reactions to the news, science, and everything else. The world is far too big and dynamic to think we can know it all.

But, I am really preaching to the choir here, as cigar and pipe smokers take the time to sit back and relax, contemplate and get perspective on life. I suppose that is what the anti-smokers in the world don't understand; they don't understand that cigar and pipe lovers are savoring their time... We are trying to decompress from the hysterical and sensationalized world we are forced to live in... like we have been for thousands of years. Instead of reacting to HealthScare Ping-Pong and every other fear that is thrust upon us, we should make it our mission to share our values with those that are less enlightened.... thus, making the world a better and more healthy place.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Morhealthity: confessions of a fake health and safety advocate

Well, I have a confession to make and it makes me sick just thinking about what I have done. But, in my defense, I did it all in the name of preserving freedom. For about a week in 2008 I wrote a blog called Morhealthity - Beyond Liberty: Legislating Safety, Health, & Morality. As you can see, it was an exercise in stupidity and narcissism, void of freedom-loving values, tolerance, and common sense - but it was 'logical'. Honestly, it made me feel like a dirty person; a nazi or some other kind of grotesque totalitarian pontificating morality and social structure.

In the past I have said that smoke bans, excessive tobacco taxation, and most health and safety laws imposed on individuals are intellectually bankrupt ideas as they fail to preserve our freedoms. In fact, freedom is inherently risky, like life, and that is what makes it precious. So for about a week I put myself in the mentality that many of our contemporary legislators and health and safety advocates use.... and the results were clearly disastrous. Using their logic I easily managed to justify making hair dye illegal, closing down any business where an accident may happen, and created posses to try and tame and manage the 'dirty' smokers in our society. While I only wrote about a handful of ideas, my mind conjured up hundreds - like banning grilling, sizzling fajitas, bar-b-q, or any type of cooking that produces carcinogens or smoke - oddly the smoking bans have never addressed any of these realities. In addition, I started to think about how horrible the sight of smokers and 'less than physically perfect' people might have on our children.... maybe we should keep them out of sight... The most horrific thoughts popped into my head many times a day. Every time something bad happened in the news, I would think: 'close it down', 'ban it', 'tax it', 'legislate and control', etc....

This is what happens when individual liberty is displaced as the highest value of a society.... and I truly fear what the future holds if we do not get a grip on our most precious values! Remember, that our constitution guarantees the individual right to the pursuit of happiness! And remind your friends and legislators too.... Health, Safety, and Longevity are all useless without Freedom. And while every man dies, not every man lives well and the government has no right to tell people what will make them happy.

There are billions of dollars funnelled into the anti-smoking campaigns, both by the tobacco companies (capitalism's greatest irony), the cancer, lung, heart institutes, the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids (winner of the 2008 Anti-Smoking Hypocrisy Award), drug companies, and the Robert Wood Johnson foundation - just to name a few.... These lobbies work day and night pressuring legislators to pass these feel good laws. And they continue to succeed. In the end, all I can think of now is what a massive waste of human life and intelligence this has been. After all, couldn't these do-gooders accomplish so much more addressing war, genocide, disease, mal-nutrition, potable water, education, etc.... ??? Our legislators continue to restrict what individuals choose to do to themselves instead of fighting the injustices that we do to each other.

Food for thought:

In Dallas, TX Tobacconists cannot keep their doors open now because the local legislators fear people might actually smell tobacco smoke wafting outside - protecting odor annoyance?

Apartments and Condominiums throughout the country are now making smoking illegal both indoors and on balconies because some tenants hate the smell - will they legislate what and how you can cook next?