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Tobacco tax snuffing cigar habit

So I was sitting in a leather couch at El Cid's, watching my cigar smoke drift upward and listening to the guys talk about politics and stuff that really matters in life, like the tobacco tax going up again.

El Cid's has been a nice place to go to hide. No editors at the old Rocky, may it rest in peace, knew about it. And, by God, the tobacco-less creatures would never venture into North Denver to find it.

El Cid's is on West 44th Avenue, just east of Sheridan. If you had a fair throwing arm, you could hit Wheat Ridge with a rock. But why would you want to?

I enjoyed my visits to the shop. I liked looking up at the ceiling - plywood panels cut at angles and pounded tight into place. That was Mr. Jack's doing. That's Jack Rogers to most folks - Mr. Jack to the regulars who come in.

He used to sit in the couch when it was against the back wall. He'd offer me a dip of snuff when I'd come in, but only after throwing me a big smile and shaking my hand with both of his.

Age has ambushed him. He fell and broke his hip. He's chucked his walker and uses a cane now.

And I think he has pitched his can of snuff because the last three, four times I'd seen him, he offered me a whip of licorice.

El Cid's is sort of like the old-time barbershops you used to see, where guys would come in and visit. I don't hang around barbershops. If you see my hair, or what's left of it, you'd know that most barbers would ask me to sit around with a towel on my head so I don't scare new customers away.

You get a few Rons. I keep them straight by Fuzzy Ron, Ronaldo Ron and Just Plain Ron. There were a couple of Jims, but one got mad since Barack Obama was elected and accused the whole El Cid's crew of voting Democrat, although if El Cid's could have been a swing precinct in the entire election, he would still be Sen. Obama and not Mr. President.

The guys I talk to aren't lunatic fringe. They get up in a lather over politics and then someone blames both major parties and they all agree.

And then they talk about real stuff again, like fishing and hunting.

So Gregg with Three G's was telling about bird hunting with his cousin when he was a kid.

"He wounded a dove," Gregg with Three G's said. "So he grabbed his shotgun by the barrel and was trying to kill the dove with the butt. And he had the gun right under his chin."

So Gregg told his cousin to please stop. His cousin turned his head and said what did you say and the shotgun fired right past his ear."You saved his life," someone said. "The darn fool would have blown his head off if he hadn't turned his head to you."

Someone asked if someone else had tried Cuban Rejects.

"You know why they call them Cuban Rejects?" Ronaldo Ron asked. "Because Cuba rejected them."

Guys talked about finer cigars. Gregg with Three G's had just become my new best friend because he treated me to a $10 cigar to mark the demise of the old Rocky.

And then the conversation turned bitter, to talk of the new tobacco tax coming up in April.

Back when the Republicans ran the statehouse in the '80s, whenever they saw a need to raise taxes, they'd call on Sen. "Sin Tax" Tillie Bishop to carry the hike on tobacco and alcohol. He was from Grand Junction in probably the safest district in the state. So he'd sponsor the increase, it would pass and he would be re-elected to another term.

But now, it's the feds who are raising the tax on tobacco.

Ronaldo Ron said that a can of imported pipe tobacco was being priced out of the market.

"I sell the can for $24," he said. "The new tax alone is going up an additional $28 a can. My customers can't afford to buy it."

And as I looked up at that magnificent handmade ceiling, watching my cigar smoke waft upward, I realized that I would have to kick the habit.

I can do without the cigars. I will miss my visits to El Cid's. No sense sitting around, sucking on a nicotine lozenge and watching the guys who can afford it continue to puff away.

Friday, June 26, 2009


Tobacco tax snuffing cigar habit