The Surgeon General’s Report on Secondhand Smoke: Making a case for cigar smokers

An article by The Associated Press reported: There is no safe level of secondhand smoke — even a few minutes inhaling someone else’s smoke harms nonsmokers, [Carmona] found. And separate smoking sections, even the best ventilated ones, don’t protect enough. Carmona called for completely smoke-free buildings and public places to lessen what he termed “involuntary smoking.”

I’ve always put a lot of faith in science, especially when it’s backed up by empirical data, which is why the report has been a little unsettling for me. I’m exposed to cigar smoke on a daily basis. Is all that cigar smoke hurting me? Probably. But for me, as a cigar smoker, that’s like a walk through the flower garden. As far as cigarette smoke is concerned – I hate it. Although I respect the rights of those who want to pollute themselves with cigarettes, I’m more concerned about how the results of such a report will further empower the anti-smoking lobbyists, and cause an even greater threat to cigar smokers by taking away our rights, as well. 17 states and over 400 counties, cities, and towns have already passed tough no-smoking laws, and the numbers continue to grow. Just Google the keywords “smoking ban” and you’ll see what I mean.

It’s important to draw the distinctions between cigarette smokers and cigar smokers. OK, smoke is smoke, but cigar smoking is more than just tugging on a wad of burning tobacco. It’s a lifestyle. You relax with a cigar. You don’t inhale a cigar. And the aroma of the smoke is a significant part of the experience. Moreover, premium cigars – long-filler, handmade imported cigars, that is – are all-natural. You’re not smoking paper and whatever chemicals they use in the composition of the filter on a cigarette.

The report also focused on secondhand smoke in the home, emphasizing the effects on children.

…just over one in five children breathes their parents’ smoke — and youngsters’ still developing bodies are especially vulnerable. Secondhand smoke puts children at risk of sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS, as well as bronchitis, pneumonia, worsening asthma attacks, poor lung growth and ear infections.

Over the past five years, I’ve met dozens of men in the cigar business, young and old. Most of them have been around smoke their entire lives, particularly the growers and blenders, since they were children. Many of them have already smoked more cigars than I could ever smoke in two lifetimes, and they don’t seem much worse for wear.

Not surprisingly, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. insists the danger is overblown. But I have to agree with RJR spokesperson David Howard who said, “Bottom line, we believe adults should be able to patronize establishments that permit smoking if they choose to do so.”

To their credit, many of the newly implemented smoking bans exclude tobacco shops, cigar bars, and in the case of New Jersey’s recently passed law, casinos. So why not let the market decide? After all, one out of every five Americans smoke, and freedom of choice is what America is all about, isn’t it? If the anti-smoking lobby has its way, tobacco – in spite of the huge tax revenue it brings in – will be eradicated entirely.

It’s easy to pick on the smokers. But another question arises. Has the “green” movement thought about how much air pollution is affecting us? How about the additives in most of the foods we eat, the medications we take, or how our water supply is slowly killing us? I would suggest anti-smoking proponents read The Hundred-Year Lie: How Food and Medicine Are Destroying Your Health by investigative journalist Randall Fitzgerald.

According to Mr. Fitzgerald, the average American now carries 700 or more synthetic chemicals in their body, including Teflon, plastics, and dozens of pesticides. Musk fragrances used in detergents and air fresheners have been found in our drinking water because current water treatment facilities cannot filter them out. Aspartame, the artificial sweetener used in diet drinks and thousands of other food products, has been linked to 88 toxic symptoms. Talk about food for thought.

The Cigar Association of America is the only lobby group in Washington that represents the cigar smoker. I believe cigar smokers must take a stand by supporting cigar bars, forming clubs, and by contributing to the CAA’s efforts by reaching into their pockets.

A last year’s Retail Tobacco Dealers Association trade show in New Orleans, I and several other co-workers had dinner with one of the cigar industry’s leading manufacturers. Over a discussion of this very issue, he pointed out that cigar smokers are “a unique group” and should be treated as such.

Although they represent only a fraction of all smokers, the number of cigar smokers is growing. Not just because they have a need for tobacco, not just because cigar smoking creates a wonderful sense of camaraderie, but because as Edgar Cullman Sr., former Chairman of General Cigar Co., Inc. used to say, “It’s something that makes you feel good.” And in this day and age, with the constant threat of terrorism hanging over our heads and the changing global climate creating havoc, now more than ever we need something that makes us feel good.

Gary Korb

Gary Korb

Executive Editor at cigaradvisor.com

Gary Korb has been writing and editing content for CigarAdvisor.com since its debut in 2008. An avid cigar smoker for over 30 years, during the past 12 years he has worked on the marketing side of the premium cigar business as a Sr. Copywriter, blogger, and cigar reviewer. A graduate of the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, prior to his career in the cigar business, Gary worked in the music and video industry as a marketer and a publicist.

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