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Cigar Shops Under Attack

It’s no secret that it’s becoming harder and harder to find a place to smoke. Smoking bans have forced us out of offices, restaurants, and bars, and smoking bans now target outdoor areas, multi-unit apartment buildings, and even cars.

Smoking ban advocates claim their concern is protecting people from exposure to secondhand smoke. So they shouldn’t object to people smoking in a cigar shop, right?

After all, no one enters their local brick and mortar because they don’t want to be around smoke; they go there to enjoy cigars and hang out with fellow smokers. Those who work in cigar shops do so because they are passionate about cigars, and often the B&M is the only place they can smoke while at work.

But as you might guess, it isn’t that simple when it comes to the anti-smoking zealots. Instead, the last havens of cigar smokers are under siege, just like so many other places.

Indeed, in a handbook titled “Fundamentals of SmokefreeWorkplace Laws,” a group of anti-tobacco lobbying organizations lay out their strategy for spreading smoking bans, and include a passage on opposing any exemptions for tobacco retail shops, cigar bars, or hookah bars. (The “handbook” also opposes exemptions for private clubs, grandfather clauses, and any exemptions for financial hardships.)

But bans aren’t the only foes of cigar stores. Even where smoking is allowed, regulations are designed to do harm. In New York City, for example, the century-old Barclay Rex cigar store recently found itself in trouble with city inspectors who cited the shop for serving free coffee to its customers using a $9,000 automatic espresso maker. The violation was for serving “food” without a permit. Problem is, according to New York’s strict smoking ban, no place that allows smoking can have such a permit.

Other shops in New York have had similar problems. When Nat Sherman launched it’s new flagship store in Midtown, it opened a downstairs members-only lounge, complete with a full bar. But during my last visit I was told that the bar was temporarily closed while they waited for the appropriate approval from city authorities. Free coffee and water were provided, so don’t tell the city officials.

These are just some of the ways cigar shops are being targeted. Unlike online retailers, who can pick their base of operations to minimize taxes, local shops can be instantly driven out of business by massive tobacco tax hikes or complete bans.

The shame of it is that cigar stores are the lifeblood of cigar culture. They’re where we go to sample new cigars, get recommendations about what to try, and enjoy the camaraderie of our fellow smokers. That’s why it’s so critical that we support our local B&Ms and defend them against these attacks.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Source: The Stogie Guys

Cigar Shops Under Attack