Entries for month: August 2014
You hear that a lot when the other side talks about tobacco. But is it really? Remember when ulcers were thought to be caused by spicy food and instead were the result of bacteria that simple antibiotics could cure? Well the same is apparently true about salt and diets. Remember that when Bloomberg was the nanny, er mayor, of NYC, not only did he wage war on tobacco but also on salt. He got his health department to cut the amount of salt in foods in the city. They pushed for a 25% reduction. Salt is terrible for you, they said.
“We are trying to extend lives and improve the lives of people who live in this city,” Bloomberg said in a press conference in New York today. Life expectancy in the city has lengthened by 15 months over his eight-year tenure, the mayor said.
The city modeled its salt-reduction plan on England, which “has been very successful in getting packaged-good manufacturers to slowly reduce content,” Bloomberg said.
The science is settled—the American Heart Association, another nanny, still says that is the case. Not so fast. A study this month said if you cut out too much salt you could be hurting your health.
Current guidelines from U.S. government agencies, the World Health Organization, the American Heart Association and other groups set daily dietary sodium targets between 1,500 and 2,300 milligrams or lower, well below the average U.S. daily consumption of about 3,400 milligrams.
The new study, which tracked more than 100,000 people from 17 countries over an average of more than three years, found that those who consumed fewer than 3,000 milligrams of sodium a day had a 27% higher risk of death or a serious event such as a heart attack or stroke in that period than those whose intake was estimated at 3,000 to 6,000 milligrams. Risk of death or other major events increased with intake above 6,000 milligrams.
Of course the nannies derided the study.
The new report has shortcomings, and as an observational study it found only an association, not a causative effect, between very low sodium and cardiovascular risk. Still, it spurred calls to reconsider the targets.
Wait, aren’t damn near all of the studies on tobacco, second hand and third hand smoke these types of studies? Yeah well when the “science” isn’t to your liking, challenge the study but when it is, well it is gospel.
Willy Herrera, the master blender for Drew Estate, is coming out with a very limited cigar. So much so that only one store will get each release and there will only be a few releases per year. His regular cigar, the Herrera Esteli has been a hit although sometimes the supply is not as much as consumers would like and everyone seems to be waiting on his new regular line the Norteno. It was supposed to be out by now, but like many things at Drew Estate, timing is flexible. The new limited release is called “Tienda Exclusiva by Willy Herrera”. (That means store exclusive.) If you can find the store that has them they will retail for $12 and come in 10 count boxes.
John Starks is a former all-star with the NBA. Growing up in Oklahoma, he first played for Golden State then it was onto the New York Knicks and the All Star team. Starks retired in 2002 and was the Knick’s all time three-point leader. He was the first player in NBC history to make 200 three-pointers in a single season. Why am I telling you this? Well you see Starks is also a cigar lover. Near the end of his professional career, he would travel down to the Dominican Republic a couple of times a year bring the kids down there new and used sports equipment. During these trips, he started visiting cigar factories as well. The result was Legend Cigars and his signature Dominican cigar simply called John Starks Legend. They are medium bodied cigars with Dominican binder and fillers and come either in a natural Ecuadoran Connecticut or Brazilian maduro wrapper. Their booth at the show was nice but the cigar was nicer.
famous smokers · John Starks
Bill Clinton has been out of office now for almost a generation (14 years) but still in the limelight of course. He is known as someone who smokes cigars (as seen in this photo from Reuters in 1999) and where he put them caused news during his presidency. This past week, he made cigar news again. Kaizad Hansotia—the C-E-O of Gurkha – says the former President is a big fan of “His Majesty’s Reserve” cigars which fetch—are you ready? --$1,000 per stick.
"We hunt for the most exotic tobaccos around the world," Hansotia said, rationalizing the nearly $1,000 price tag. The company produces about 20,000 boxes per year, and has a three-year waiting list. Clients include business leaders, royal families and dignitaries. A-List celebrities like Matthew McConaughey -- and apparently one former president -- also smoke the company's premium cigars.
Now according to the news reports, Clinton may not actually smoke the HMR regularly instead Hansotia says Bill likes the Beauties, which only cost $600 each. That must mean that Bill is not buying them from JR…. Of course Gurkha makes a lot of different cigars and many are available in 5 packs. But the HMR is not available in the 5-pack ….yet. heh.
Gurkha · famous smokers · Bill Clinton · luxury cigars
One of the newer things at the Davidoff booth was the recently released Camacho Ecuador. The cigar with the blue band and box actually came out just before the show, but it was prominently featured at the booth. The new Camacho uses a Habano seed grown in Ecuador for its wrapper with a Brazilian Mata Fina binder and high priming Honduran tobaccos along with Pelo de Oro ligero from the Dominican Republic for fillers. It comes in 5 sizes from a 5” x 50 Robusto to a 6” 60 Gordo and prices start just under $7.
Davidoff also continued the Camacho Liberty Series for 2014, which also uses the Habano Ecuadoran wrapper but it is from 2005. This cigar contains a 2006 Corojo binder and fillers from both the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua. It is only one size, 11/18 and comes in 20 count boxes with a total production of only 2,000 boxes. They retail for $17 each.
Another addition to the Camacho line is the Double Shock. The logo for this cigar is the rare double-tailed scorpion. Davidoff says this barber pole type of cigar was made in the Danli factory with tobaccos from 5 different countries. The wrappers are, again, the Ecuadoran Habano but paired with a dark San Andres leaf creating the barber pole effect. The binder is Criollo and the fillers are from the Dominican Republic, Honduras and Pennsylvania. The double shock is limited to 1,000 boxes of each size. They come in three sizes, Toro, Figurado and Gordo and the retail is from $11.50 to $13. They should hit store shelves in October.
Finally, part of the Camacho “Board of the Bold” is Hollywood writer, producer and director Rob Weiss. He is best known for the HBO series Entourage. Weiss now has partnered with Camacho and Davidoff to form the B.G. Meyer Company and has released a couple of cigars. The first line is the Standard Issue, which uses Nicaraguan tobaccos made at AgroIndustrias Laepe S.A. in Danli—the old Camacho and now Davidoff factory. It comes in five sizes, again from the 5” x 50 Robusto to a 6” x 60 Gordo. Prices are from $8-10. The second cigar is called Slackers which is a smaller stick being sold in 4 packs. Whereas the Standard Issue is medium to full, Slackers is more on the mild side with an Ecuadoran Connecticut wrapper, Dominican binder and fillers. Cost will be about $4 each.
Camacho · Davidoff · IPCPR · new cigars
One thing is pretty clear about the FDA…no matter what they rule, there will be court cases. For one thing, Altria—the cigarette maker Philip Morris—is concerned that the FDA control may force them to change the name of one of the best selling cigar brands. Altria owns John Middleton Co., which makes the Black and Mild brand. Middleton dates back to 1856 and it has almost a third of the U.S. cigar market.
Under the Food and Drug Administration proposal, cigar makers would have to remove descriptions like "light," ''mild," ''medium" or "low" from their products, raising a unique question about the fate of Black & Mild.
The descriptions were banned for cigarettes under a 2009 law because many smokers wrongly thought they meant the products were less harmful than "full-flavor" cigarettes. Cigarette makers have since replaced those words with colors such as gold, silver, blue and orange on such brands, which usually feature different filters and milder-flavored blends.
The company contends that forcing it to change the name would be unconstitutional.
"Neither FDA's regulatory authority or the First Amendment allows the FDA to ban words such as mild for cigar and pipe tobacco regardless of the context," said Altria spokesman David Sutton. "Here, when the word is part of a longstanding and well-established trademark like Black & Mild, such a ban would violate basic constitutional guarantees."
But, of course, constitutionality matters to the government. See Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder for confirmation.
FDA · cigar laws · cigar industry
The FDA is going through the comments now and last week in talking with Glynn Loope about the comments submitted, he told me that on the last day the Cigar Rights of America group delivered about 40 pounds of letters. Yup, the old fashioned pre-Internet kind on paper, not electronic. That is a lot of letters from cigar smokers and is a good thing. Loope says the CRA is drafting another letter for consumers to send to Congress. Yes there still is a way to stop this, via Congressional action. (This is an election year after all.)
In the meantime, Florida’s Attorney General gets a pat on the back. Pam Bondi wrote into the FDA to say she thinks they are overdoing it. Unfortunately she was alone.
Bondi’s letter was separate from a letter signed the same day by 29 other attorneys general that implored the FDA to make the proposed regulations even stronger, particularly in regard to electronic cigarettes
Bondi said the FDA should consider the economic impact of what it is doing. (Remember it already has put people in San Antonio out of work when Finck’s cigar factory closed and I doubt there is much call for cigar makers in Texas anymore.) Bondi is concerned that J.C. Newman in Tampa would have to cease its manufacturing in that city.
“This 119-year-old premium cigar company with 130 employees is truly unique in this industry and should not be regulated in the same manner as the nation’s largest cigarette companies,” Bondi wrote on Friday, the deadline for submissions on the federal plan.
Florida’s Senators also have been involved.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., have requested an exemption to the new rules for companies that don’t mass-produce cigars, such as J. C. Newman. The FDA is already considering an exemption for premium cigars that are handmade. J.C. Newman uses vintage machines.
We’ll see how this plays out.
cigar industry · cigar laws · FDA
Speaking of Jochy Blanco, he has been a busy man. Not only does he make all of Boutique Blends cigars, but he also is making his cousin Jose Blanco’s Señoral line of cigars. (Yes they are both named Jose Blanco, which is why Jochy uses his nickname.) But somehow, Jochy found time to make another new cigar, Black Abyss. This is what you expect from his factory Tabacalera La Palma, bold flavors with great construction. He uses a San Andres maduro wrapper over Corojo binder and criollo fillers. They are very reasonably priced with the MSRP ranging from $4.50 to $5.50. The only bad news is that they sell out fast.
boutique cigars · new cigars
Boutique Blends at the show had several interesting cigars. If you don’t know the company you probably do know the cigars. They are the ones behind Aging Room. The first cigar out of that series was the M-356, which debuted in Cigar Aficionado’s top 25 list for 2011. Heck of a way to start. For 2013, the Quattro F55 was named the number 2 cigar of the year by CA (only a Cuban beat it.) Both of these cigars, like all of the Aging Room products are limited. The company uses special aged tobaccos and once they run out that is it. The M-356 is about out of production (the tobacco is just about gone) so get them while you can. For this year, the company had another limited production cigar called Aging Room, Bin No. 1. This is what Rafael Nodal calls a strong cigar with flavor. And strong it is, I would recommend it after a steak dinner. He and master blender Jochy Blanco are using some really old tobacco that is very strong, but the age on the tobacco makes the cigar very smokable.
Another new entry from Boutique is La Boheme. Unlike the Aging Room lines this one will be in regular production and not limited. It uses an Ecuadoran Habano wrapper over Dominican Habano filler and binder. It comes in 4 sizes: Mini at 3.5” x 46 (which happens to be co-owner Hank Bischoff’s favorite size), Pittore at 5.125” x 52, Poeta 5.75” x 54 and Musico at 6.25” x 60. It is medium to full bodied with a great taste. The SWAG line is another regular production line. It comes in the SWAG-S , the SWAG Puro Dominicano and now the new addition to the line-up is the SWAG Black. Unlike the other SWAG cigars, the black is more full bodied, using a Habano seed wrapper over Dominican fillers and binder. It will be coming in four sizes from the 4.5” x 48 up to 6 x 60. List prices are $6.95 to $8.98. The last limited production item is the M020 ffortissimo. It is the sequel to last year’s M-21 it uses San Andres wrapper over Habano Dominican filler and binder and it too is full bodies. It comes in one figurado size 5.75” x 47, boxes of 10 and retails at about $14.
boutique cigars · new cigars
Well the comment period is now closed for the FDA’s proposed rule to take over cigars. We don’t know how many were in favor and how many were on our side yet. But the final count was 75,735, which is about 15,000 more than we had at the start of last week. Since the FDA has to look at every comment, figure it will take them about 6 months to go through all of them. Realistically, the FDA is going to do what it wants to do no matter what. So now we sit and wait. I thank those of you who did put in your comments, and as for those who didn’t, well when cigars are gone you only have yourselves to blame.
The other side is not resting…they are continuing their push for regulation of premium cigars. According to an inaccurate report by Bloomberg:
“We know that premium cigars have health risks, they cause cancers they have cardiovascular implications and so on,” Gregg Haifley, associate director of federal relations with the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network, said in an interview. “Why should a product that has known disease health consequences be exempt from a factual scientific warning label?”
There are 3,639 types of cigars that would be affected by the proposal, 3,276 of which are made in other countries, according to an economic analysis by the FDA.
The groups want the premium cigar makers to have only one year to file an application to sell their products instead of the 2 years the FDA proposes. For all 3,639 cigars and that doesn’t include what came out this year at the trade show. And I am sure the FDA will get right on that approving them...
Oh the inaccurate part? In the story’s third paragraph it talks about Imperial Tobacco as the owner of Davidoff. Guess the reporter and the anti’s don’t know Davidoff is a separate company. Nice fact checking.
By the way, in Hawaii there is a preview of things to come. Starting July first, the state got rid of self-service for cigars, unless the shop bars anyone under 18 from going in. It is not that much of a problem because there are very few walk-in humidors in the state and the under 18 ban is a way out. But look for the FDA to implement a very similar rule everywhere once they gain control.
So What Now?
There is still something you can do about this…urge your Congressmen and Senators to support HR 792 and SB 772, which would exempt premium cigars from the FDA’s clutches. As of now, there are 162 sponsors and co-sponsors for the House bill and 16 for the Senate version. We need to do better. Write and call your Congressional delegation to be certain they get involved. Even if these bills do not pass this session, the more sponsors we get will get the FDA’s attention. After all, the FDA gets its money from Congress. You can go to the Cigar Rights website to get information on the bills and how to contact your representatives.
FDA · cigar laws