How do cigar consumers fight for their cigar rights? What is the current state of their participation and what more can be done to support such actions? We have asked J. Glynn Loope, Executive Director of Cigar Rights of America, and Claudia Wiemer, President of Cigar Rights of Europe.
Q: How are consumers advocating for their rights to enjoy cigars and what are the main behaviors you see in response to regulatory threats?
“At Cigar Rights of America, even with ten years now in existence, we often feel that we are still in our infancy with educating consumers and manufacturers, as well as retail tobacconists, as to the threats posed by federal regulation, as well as with strategies to combat threats at the local and state levels of government. We are often coaching, or assisting each of our stakeholders on methods to combat tax, regulatory and related legislative challenges confronting threats to the enjoyment of cigars, or the production and sale of an all natural, artisan product.
Even while we know that more consumers need to be engaged in the fight against any legislative threat to the premium cigar sector, it is refreshing that over the course of the last three sessions of congress, over half a million consumers (CRA estimates at around 3 millions the premium cigar smokers in the USA, Ed.) took the time to fill out petitions to congress, asking that they support a federal legislative exemption from regulation for a narrowly defined set of premium cigars. I knew we were starting to get through to the consumer when they started emailing me the responses from their legislators. The politics of cigars has, indeed, gone to a new level over the course of the last seven years, but there is still much to do to insure a more stable economic future for the industry as a whole, and consumer choices, specifically.”
“Cigar Rights of Europe was founded 2 ½ years ago. In February 2019 we had a change of the board and the main goal for the new board is now to generate a large number of memberships in a short time. We need to have a powerful voice in the public and in politics to fight for our rights to enjoy cigars.
Many consumers are accepting that they have fewer possibilities to enjoy cigars. They still find their ways: cigars are more often enjoyed at home and this is a limitation of our social life.”
Both Glynn and Claudia agree on the fact that most consumers do not recognize that the threats are becoming real.
Claudia: “Most cigar smokers like to be in a comfort zone. The challenge for us is to involve as many of them in our mission.”
Glynn: “Too many are comfortable with the notion that they can still buy the cigars of their choice, enjoy them at home, in lounges. But as soon as the issuance of new blends are hindered by regulation, or costs go up, or new smoking regulations become ever more draconian, there will be a new awakening. Of course, our mission is to prevent it from getting that bad, which means we’re asking all involved to “fight a ghost.” But that ghost can become real, all too often.”
Q: What do you suggest consumers can do, other than supporting your respective association?
“Every aficionado should explain the facts of cigar smoking at any time. Cigars are natural products which are only enjoyed by grown-ups for pleasure, indulgence and not for addiction. The politicians and the public need to understand that there is a big difference between premium cigars and other tobacco products.”
“Consumers need to be engaged to defend their passion for great cigars. Calling, emailing and visiting their legislators at all levels, circulating our petitions to build cigar smokers as a true political constituency, inviting legislators to local cigar shops and clubs, orchestrating calls to district offices, are all tools we coach consumers to use in our defense of the industry.”
Q: What do you suggest media and influencers can do to support consumers in the fight for their rights?
“The cigar media needs to be more consistent and diligent at communicating the threats to premium handmade cigars. There should be a dedicated forum in every blog, magazine, newsletter, sales and event promotion, dedicated to the very real threats confronting this industry, and engaging the cigar public in these battles. I am still amazed at some major cigars events where the consumer says, “I didn’t know.” Well, our collective task should be to make sure “everyone knows” if they have any passion at all for premium handmade cigars, and all they represent.”
“We have to have a powerful voice in the public and in politics. So every help is appreciated to let everyone know the facts about premium cigars. And the fight is not only about cigar smoking, it is also about personal freedom and limitation of individual rights where it is not necessary.”
As Glynn also summarizes:
- freedom to make our own choices
- battle the “nanny-state knows best” elements of government, and other special interest groups that want to bring about a new era of prohibition
- battling international bodies such as the World Health Organization with their scare tactics and global policy initiatives that can affect policies near and far
should be the common goals of each and everyone of us. A lot of facts are available, even just through our very special ways to enjoy our premium cigars, which are gourmet products. As Claudia says “Enjoying a cigar is a major key for personal well-being and enjoyment, offers us time for relaxation, reflection, as well as community and social life.”
We ask that you actively support cigar smokers rights wherever you live.
Featured image: III Mole di Fumo, April 2016, Castello Feudale I Nove Merli, Piossasco, Italy – credit: PuroMotivo Cigar Club