» Government Rants » Banning Good Taste

Banning Good Taste

Given my predilection for the occasional stogie, I’ve considered writing something like this for quite some time. Although the The Stogie Guys beat me to it, strangely, I’m inspired to post something along similar lines.

The weather in the Phoenix area right now lends itself perfectly to an evening cigar. I can think of few greater pleasures in life than sitting on my back porch with good company and savoring a delicious, handmade cigar. I’ve had a few nights like that these past few weeks. For an hour or two, I’ve had no place else to be and nothing else to do. Who could have wanted more? Although it isn’t a common indulgence, my life is far richer because of nights like those.

I admire what a cigar is capable of doing. The cigars I smoked cost me only a few dollars, and they guaranteed my attention for an extended period of time. They provided me not only with the sensation of smoking, which is itself very pleasing, but with a wide array of flavors. Time literally stood still. A cigar is a commitment to do nothing unpleasant for an hour or two, and it almost never disappoints.

When I smoke, I often worry it will become far harder to do so in the future. I can’t smoke indoors any longer. I’ve found that smoking on the patio of bars and restaurants becomes more difficult with each passing year. I’ve noticed the price of my humidor mainstays has steadily risen each year since I first came to enjoy cigars. I read about the FDA beginning to regulate tobacco, and I hear about ever-rising cigar taxes. I am concerned that something purely positive in my life might soon be regulated out of existence. I generally oppose government regulation of pretty much anything, but making cigar smoking more difficult seems especially nefarious. It seems more wasteful, more senseless than most other regulation.

In many respects, a fine cigar feels more like a piece of art than a consumable product. I was first introduced to cigars years ago when I was a musician and an orchestra tour took me through Cuba. Although I liked the idea of smoking cigars and had been told that the sticks I picked up were great, I didn’t have the palate to know for myself. As my tastes have developed, more than anything else, I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn. Truly appreciating cigars, like truly appreciating any fine spirit or gourmet food item, can be a lifetime undertaking.

Cigars are a product with a long, rich tradition. Their creation is an art in and of itself, a skill often passed down from generation to generation. Cigar-making may be the kind of thing that’s capable of creating sustainable growth in third world countries, building up local economies and reviving old traditions. Fully appreciating the complexity of fine cigars can take a lifetime, and the mere act of smoking one forces someone to sit down and relax. It helps strengthen relationships and makes people communicate, drawing them away from the television so they can interact as human beings. And what does the government do? It does its best to regulate them to death.

That’s the problem with government. More accurately, it’s one of many problems with government. When the government sees there’s a plainly negative aspect to something, it attacks. Tobacco is an easy target because nobody likes cancer. Lung and heart diseases suck. By attacking something because of its well-known negative side effects, the government can instantly score an easy point with citizens who don’t appreciate the positive aspects what they’re banning.

It always saddens me to see a government ruining some of the best cultural aspects of the people it governs. I couldn’t believe it when I read that England was considering a ban on glass pints in bars. After all the progress the English Campaign for Real Ale made, would they really put up with having to pour hand-pulled ales into plastic pint glasses? Why not just require that pubs serve alcohol in Dixie cups?

While cigars may not be as much a part of US culture as cask ale is a part of English culture, cigars are something Americans do well. Some delicious cigars come from the US, and there’s no shortage of famous American cigar enthusiasts. If the anti-smoking nannies have their way, it will be a sad day not just for cigar smokers, but for society in general. Sometimes, the enjoyment of doing something is worth the risk. I wish the government could understand that.

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5 Responses to "Banning Good Taste"

  1. E. Honda says:


    I’m not sure it’s an issue of what is a “public space.” Aren’t tobacco bans tied either to the city’s zoning ordninances or food/beverage licensing regulations? I think a city’s citizens have the right to, through their government, decide what is prohibited to take place around their food. Do you take exception to the requirement that a restaurant secure a food handler’s permit and a liquor license? If not, then yr problem must be with the regulation of tobacco only, and that doesn’t make sense to me.

    That said, I join in Ben Kalafut’s hope for “legal middle ground” on the issue. When enough regulation is in place to assuage the public outcry, we’ll probably see cities create the “tobacco license” for establishments that want to bring smokers back on the basis of smoking.

  2. Ben Kalafut says:

    Cancer is a motivation for some support of restrictions and bans, yes, but some of us like now being able to go to restaurants, bars, and bowling alleys. The status quo bias prevented that a while back.

    The most obnoxious problem remains: now that the cold weather is here I find it more difficult to walk from point A to point B without having something waft in my face that makes my eyes sting, my nose and throat itch, makes me cough, and increases my risk for a few diseases I’d like to avoid.

    Now that the status quo bias is broken I’m fine with letting restaurants and bars start allowing smoking again so long as there’s a warning sign posted prominently on the door, but sidewalks, paths, etc.–especially public staircases and building entries–should be off-limits to smoking. “The world is my weeder” is the prevailing attitude among cigarette smokers. “I should be able to do this where I want, when I want, and let nonconsenting parties cough and wheeze and maybe get cancer!”. Ridiculous–there shouldn’t even be a need for “no smoking” signs. There should not be a presumption that one can impose such noxious stuff on others. I understand that that’s not you, but the prevalence of that attitude and the daily experience nonsmokers have of it isn’t working in your favor.

    And as long as walkways and the like are not off limits pressure for bans will continue. Busybody concern about cancer wasn’t the only reason for broad support of public smoking bans–(formerly) not being able to go out is frequently cited, and the general rudeness of smokers is still aggravating to myself and many others.

    Smoker shortsightedness has to be faulted at least as much as government or nonsmoker shortsightedness.

    I’d like to think that we can find legal middle ground in this. I can have whiskey but cannot dissolve noxious stuff in grain alcohol, put it in a spray bottle, and mist people with it.

  3. Gavin Peters says:


    You’ve made me pine for warmer climates I have lived in. I too used to enjoy a cigar after dinner in the evening (usually with some CC or Crown Royal on the rocks) on my porch in Oakland, California. I tried to continue the tradition after I moved back to Toronto, but the climate there made it either too hot or too cool to really sit outside. I just stopped smoking cigars because it was unpleasant.

    Since then, my mom bought me some fine Cohiba Churchills on a recent trip to Havana. I tried one: I couldn’t smoke it. I got a headache and my mouth just felt poisonous. Alas.

    It was still so nice though….

  4. Padronnie says:

    E. Honda-

    Bars and restaurants aren’t public spaces. Why can’t we let the owner decide whether to allow smoking? If people , lie you, want to avoid exposure to smoke then you can find a different place to patronize. If one place want to allow cigars but not cigarettes, they can.

    In Virginia a smoking ban takes effect at the end of the month, but 60+ percent of restaurants/bars are already smoke free. In other words, without government interference there are plenty of places where you can be free of tobacco smoke.

  5. E. Honda says:

    Could you really see cigars being regulated out of existence? It may be inconvenient to only be able to smoke at home or in designated places (like for ALL the finer things: alcohol, sex, urination, and beating yr kids), but tobacco’s cultural significance, corporate sponsorship, and contribution to tax revenue will save it from being banned completely.

    I love cigars, but I hate cigarettes and I don’t trust most smokers to keep their poison out of my face. Except for dealing with the occasional aggressive drunk, we are not forced to share any of our neighbors’ other vices in public. Smoking is invasive, and I think it is rightfully restricted.

    Smoking bans are typically local legislative decisions, so as much as any government decision, we can trust them to represent the view of the community. I haven’t read the new tobacco bill itself, but the bulleted list of the law’s effects (from your link) sound pretty alright to me: stop marketing to kids, force disclosure of what’s really in the products, and remove harmful ingredients to make cigarettes safer. If you have read or read the bill, let us know what you think it really does.

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