Groups like Cigar Rights of America have waged energetic and often successful counter-attacks to the attempts to ban smoking, but I don’t feel as if cigar smoking advocates have done a good strategic job of delineating the niche market cigar smokers from that of the exponentially more abundant cigarette smokers. At first blush, it seems sensible for the cigar and cigarette advocates to combine forces and fight the good fight together. But teaming together may be a long-term strategic mistake. And the longer cigar advocacy groups stay closely affiliated with the cigarette smokers, the more difficult their counter-attack will be to preserve cigar smoking.
Don’t think cigar smoking and cigarette smoking are different and need to be clearly delineated? Here’s a real-life example of how preserving the right to smoke bites me in the butt every time. In New Orleans where I live, I frequent a bar that still allows you to smoke inside, but it’s restricted to CIGARETTES. If The Rev even so much as reaches for his leather case to reveal a cigar, the bartenders practically fly over the bar to tell me I can’t smoke cigars inside and that I’d have to go outside to the patio. Luckily, unlike most bars, a patio is right outside the bar so I can still get drinks and smoke my beloved cigars. So even if our good friends at the CRA join with the cigarette advocates and preserve “the right to smoke,” pragmatically it doesn’t help The Rev one bit, because I still get kicked outside to sweat my ass off in the 98-degree summer while the cigarette smokers cloud up the inside of the bar in air conditioned comfort. My rights are only sort of preserved.
Cigar smoking couldn’t be more different than cigarette smoking both in product and in end user. As a whole, cigar smokers are among the most conscientious group of folks you’d ever want to meet. They don’t want to stifle your dinner in a restaurant. They don’t want to pollute your drinks in a bar. They don’t want to spoil your walk in the park. They certainly don’t want to see children get cancer. They don’t smoke a box of cigars a day. Moreover, they aren’t so addicted to cigars that they have to run out of their workplace multiple times a day to get a nicotine fix. But to be fair, I don’t believe most cigarette smokers, want any of the aforementioned things either, nor do all cigarette smokers smoke a carton of cigarettes a day.
Even so, cigar smokers better be careful with the political company they keep, like the tobacco lobby, because most non-smokers don’t know the differences in the respective “habits” (if you will) that are so obvious to us cigar smokers. Cigar advocates need to CLEARLY delineate the differences and create an identity for the cigar smoker that is distinct and distant from the image of the cigarette smoker, or should the anti-smoking lobby get their wish of banning ALL smoking, we will be thrown out with the bath water. In other words, our only hope is to create an identity so distinct from cigarette smokers that we are insulated from any restrictions that befall their lobby.
Cigar smokers just want the right to have someplace to enjoy cigars with fellow aficionados to experience the camaraderie and good conversation that inevitably happens when a group of cigar smokers settle in for a herf and a few drinks. Anti-smoking groups are insidious and will continue their fight until smoking is banned forever. The farther away cigar smokers can distance themselves from cigarette smokers politically, philosophically, and strategically, the better our chances of having our rights preserved long after cigarettes are inevitably banned. If cigar smokers stay strategically in bed with the cigarette smokers, I feel we are also doomed to their fate.