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Where San Jose cigar smokers find refuge, fellowship

Three cigar store Indians have the middle-aged white guys surrounded. The men are watching a giant flat-screen TV, where an old Clint Eastwood western is playing under the wooden Indians' implacable gaze.

The men have faces the consistency of putty, and shapes as varied as the torpedos, robustos and perfectos they're smoking. Every time Eastwood chews on his cheroot, the guys on the sofas at West Coast Cigars reach for their stogies and draw. Two air purifiers sit nearby like a pair of lungs, gasping for breath.

cigars shop, forced to reshape themselves by anti-smoking ordinances over the past decade, have been transformed from cash-and-carry businesses to fellowships of the stogie. And with each passing year, that politically incorrect tribe of wooden Indians surrounds smokers whose ages, cultural backgrounds and genders grow more diverse.

Nearly 11 billion cigars were sold in this country last year, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. And a 2006 report by the Department of Health and Human Services estimated the number of cigar smokers at 13.7 million - more than the populations of Los Angeles, San Jose and San Francisco combined.

As cigarette smokers have been forced out of virtually all California buildings - shifting from foot to foot in doorways as they suck down their guilty pleasures - cigar stores are thriving by becoming more social.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Source: San Jose Mercury News

Where San Jose cigar smokers find refuge, fellowship