Smoking Bans and The Cigar Rights of America

February 12, 2011

Regulations are making it harder to find places to smoke cigars, and legislation is making it more costly. A recent study by the State of Michigan measured the effect of a 2010 statewide ban on public smoking and saw sales of tobacco products dropped by more than 6% in the year after the ban took place. With less places to smoke, people smoke less often, and spend less money on cigars.

That’s bad for cigars!!

All 50 U.S. states have some sort of smoking ban and President Obama recently signed legislation raising taxes on cigars to 52.75%. Cigar Rights of America, a consumer-based non-profit advocacy group that partners with cigar companies to protect the freedom of cigar enthusiasts, is working hard to fight back. Walk into any cigar shop in America and you can certainly find information on how to help the CRA, either by making a donation, signing a petition, or sending a letter or email to your government representatives.

Cigar companies are working with the CRA to educate legislators on what the cigar industry means to the economy. Last year the CRA joined the Cigar Association of America to host the Florida Cigar Summit, a meeting between cigar industry leaders and Florida legislators meant to protect the cigar industry in Florida. Politicians were given a tour of the J.C. Newman Cigar Company and advised on the impact the cigar industry has on the state’s 5,500 tobacco-related jobs.

So far this year, through phone banking and political action, the CRA has fought to defeat a cigar tax in Pennsylvania and a smoking ban Missouri, and announced that the mayor of Las Vegas became a lifetime CRA member.

Of course, those on the other side of the argument will insist that the smoking ban actually helps local businesses. Here’s an older study, but it shows that there is a legitimate debate on the other side.

Here is a roundup of smoking bans state-by-state. States without a statewide ban are listed in red, and as you can see, there ain’t many of ‘em. But just because the state doesn’t have a smoking ban doesn’t mean individual cities in that state don’t. States without a smoking ban tend to leave it up to the cities to decide. In most cases of a statewide ban, smoking is still allowed in cigar shops, private homes and private clubs. But there are exceptions, and some of them are pretty crazy – take a look!

  • Alabama: No statewide smoking ban but the Clean Indoor Air Act prohibits smoking in all public places. Bars, lounges, retail tobacco stores, limousines under private hire, designated hotel/motel smoking rooms, and psychiatric facilities are entirely exempt from the Act’s regulation
  • Alaska: No statewide smoking ban but the law requires designated smoking and non-smoking areas be identified.
  • Arizona: Statewide smoking ban means you can’t smoke in any building, or within 20 feet of an entrance. The following are exempt: private residences, retail tobacco stores, private clubs, smoking associated with Native American religious ceremonies, outdoor patios, and stage/film/television performances.
  • Arkansas: Statewide smoking ban excludes bar. You also can’t smoke in a car with a child under the age of 6.
  • California: Statewide smoking ban with all kinds of regulations. In 1990 the City of San Luis Obispo became the first city in the world to ban smoking in all public places.
  • Colorado: Statewide smoking ban including all bars and restaurants. Casinos are exempt.
  • Connecticut: Statewide smoking ban, but thank God bowling alleys are exempt.
  • Delaware: Statewide smoking ban, including the beach in some cities. But if you rent a social hall or a limo, you can smoke there.
  • DC: District-wide ban in all public places. You can smoke outside, and in hookah bars!
  • Florida: Statewide smoking ban excluding bars. College kids can still get lit up while they light up.
  • Georgia: Statewide ban in restaurants and some workplaces. Old people are happy that you can still smoke in a nursing home.
  • Hawaii: Statewide smoking ban in and outside of all restaurants and bars. Fines range from $50 – $500.
  • Idaho: Statewide ban in all restaurants and bars but if you’re a stand-up comedian or stage performer, you can smoke as long as it’s part of your act.
  • Illinois: Statewide smoking ban that even includes casinos and some tobacco stores.
  • Indiana: No statewide smoking ban but there are dozens of regulations as to where you can and can’t smoke, so the lack of a statewide ban seems to be a formality.
  • Iowa: Statewide smoking ban but if you go to prison, feel free to smoke.
  • Kansas: Statewide smoking ban but you can smoke at the track.
  • Kentucky: No statewide ban (no surprise given that tobacco is the leading source of crop income!)
  • Louisiana: Statewide ban excludes bars, nursing homes and prison (and a few other places)
  • Maine: Statewide ban but you can smoke if it’s part of your religion.
  • Maryland: Statewide smoking ban but you can smoke in a hospital as long as a doctor has authorized you to smoke – in the hospital!!
  • Massachusetts: Statewide smoking ban. The city of Boston prohibits cigarette sales in pharmacies.
  • Michigan: Statewide smoking ban except in cigar bars.
  • Minnesota: Statewide smoking ban and if you’re in Duluth you can’t smoke within 15 feet of a bus stop.
  • Mississippi: No statewide ban, regulation is left to the locality and many cities have their own version of a smoking ban.
  • Missouri: No statewide ban. Lowest cigarette tax in the country at $.17 a pack.
  • Montana: Statewide ban but the Montana Clean Air Act exempts bars and “tobacco demonstrations in schools.”
  • Nebraska: Statewide smoking ban, cigars bars and tobacco retail shops are exempt along with private locations.
  • Nevada: Statewide ban excludes casinos. You can still be bad if you go to Vegas, and if you happen to visit a brothel, feel free to light one up when you’ve finished your business because it’s all legal!
  • New Hampshire: Statewide ban includes bars, restaurants and some workplaces.
  • New Jersey: Statewide ban includes strip clubs, but you can smoke in the park or in cigar bars.
  • New Mexico: Statewide ban. In 2007 the Dee Johnson Clean Indoor Air Act was passed keeping smokers 50 feet away from all enclosed spaces in New Mexico, including bars and restaurants. Third-time offenders may face 12 months in the big house.
  • New York: Statewide ban. In 1908 the Sullivan Ordinance attempted to prevent women from smoking anywhere except their homes but it never passed.
  • North Carolina: Statewide ban but private country clubs are among those exempt.
  • North Dakota: Statewide ban excludes bars but local governments can be more stringent than the state.
  • Ohio: Statewide ban but in North Royalton you can smoke on the sidewalk!
  • Oklahoma: No statewide ban. You can smoke just about anywhere as long as there is a ventilation system in place to remove the smoke.
  • Oregon: Statewide ban includes bars and restaurants. Cigar shops are exempt.
  • Pennsylvania: Statewide ban with the usual exemptions but you can smoke at a truck stop!
  • Rhode Island: Statewide ban with the usual exemptions.
  • South Carolina: No statewide ban but plenty of regulations at the local level. The state Supreme Court has ruled that the maximum fine for breaking any type of smoking ban is only $25.
  • South Dakota: Statewide ban with the usual exemptions.
  • Tennessee: Statewide ban excludes bars.
  • Texas: No statewide ban but the law calls out smoking is illegal on elevators, airplanes, trains and in hospitals, as long as those areas are open to the public. So if you have a private elevator or a private hospital or train, feel free to smoke.
  • Utah: Statewide ban except private residence, Native American ceremonies and designated hotel rooms.
  • Vermont: The only state whose statewide ban DOES NOT exempt tobacconists.
  • Virginia: Statewide ban but bars and restaurants are allowed designated smoking rooms.
  • Washington: Statewide ban in all places except 25% of hotel rooms.
  • West Virginia: No statewide ban. Seems like the only place you can’t smoke is a place with a No Smoking sign. Many localities have instituted their own smoking bans.
  • Wyoming: No statewide ban. The only place you can’t smoke is where it might cause an explosion. I guess that would mean you can’t smoke while pumping gas, or repairing a gas-operated oven.

Wikipedia has a complete list and a terrific roundup of smoking bans state-by-state.

Interested in learning more? Check out the CRA right here.

Mark McGinty is the award winning author of The Cigar Maker and Elvis and the Blue Moon Conspiracy. His work has appeared in Cigar City Magazine and La Gaceta.


The Old Cigar Factories…of Minnesota?

August 5, 2010

When I was invited to a book signing for The Cigar Maker a few weeks ago, by the Dayton’s Bluff Town Council, they told me they were considering hosting the event in an old cigar factory in St. Paul. I said “Wait a minute. There’s an old cigar factory in St. Paul? St. Paul, Minnesota?”

Turns out there is.

The John Doeren cigar factory, built in 1909, is located at 699 7th St East in St. Paul. Doeren arrived in St. Paul in the 1880s, already a cigar businessman, and in 1909 his company opened in a brand new building, where cigars were rolled by hand until 1940, when the company finally closed its doors. That’s 60 years of cigar history that most locals don’t even know about!  Nowadays the small brick building is the current home of the St. Paul Police East Team. Here’s how it looked in 1910…

And here’s how it looks today…

But the cigar industry was not just active in St. Paul. The town of Two Harbors, located in VERY northern Minnesota on the north shore of Lake Superior was home to two cigar factories in the early 1900’s and produced over 30,000 stogies a month!

And then there’s the town of Benson (pop. 3300ish) on the west side of the state. Mostly an agricultural town, tobacco was grown in the county and back in the 1880’s the town was said to have several cigar factories.

There’s also the Close-But-No-Cigar History of Minnesota, which includes last year’s Minnesota Vikings, the 2002 Twins, and of course, Norm Coleman.

What kind of cigar history exists in your home state? A quick Google search can uncover quite a bit!

For additional reading on Minnesota’s cigar factories (from some really old newspapers! ) click here and here.

The book signing for The Cigar Maker is scheduled for September 22nd. Click here to learn more.


Mark McGinty is the author of The Cigar Maker. His work has been published in Cigar City Magazine and La Gaceta, one of the nation’s oldest tri-lingual newspapers.


Perdomo 10th Anniversary Maduro

June 17, 2010

Photo by Daniel T.

This cigar gave me a nice buzz. Granted, I haven’t smoked a maduro in awhile, but this one hit the spot. I headed on over to the Golden Leaf in Uptown Minneapolis to pick up some sticks for my dad’s Father’s Day gift, and to resupply my own humidor. The Perdomo rep approached me, introduced himself and said they had a special going: buy any Perdomos and get the Perdomo 10th Anniversary puro for free. What man in his right mind would resist such an offer?

The Perdomo 10th Anniversary is made with attractive Cuban-seed Nicaraguan Maduro wrappers and had one of the smoothest finishes I’ve tasted in a maduro. The cigar is beautiful, with a dark, even wrapper and an even roll. With an aroma of fine, slightly sweet, slightly damp tobacco I was worried that the tightly packed cigar would have a tight draw.

Boy, was I wrong. It had a great pull. A perfect little chee-gar. A bit on the side of heavy, but that’s the way I like it: with lots of smoke. I thought the cigar might burn a little too fast but the burn was even, with a slight crease at first that quickly evened out. This was fine tobacco, on the sweet side, with some mocha thrown in for good measure, and very, very smooth. Although this was a maduro, it didn’t taste or feel like a maduro, not until I was about halfway in and realized how strong the P- 10th A was. I did not have to tend to this cigar at all, and was content to sit back and listen to the Minnesota Twins finish a great game against the Colorado Rockies. The Perdomo took me all the way from the 5th inning until Jon Rauch’s 1-2-3 inning to end the game and secure his American League leading 17th save of the year.

I had some red wine with the cigar – a standard cabernet with a twist of tonic water and a pair of ice cubes. This might not have been the best drink to accompany the Perdomo as the wine was a bit too dry and didn’t help to compliment the Perdomo’s heavy taste. I might have been better off with a light beer or even a Diet Coke.

As I reached the end of the cigar I was pleased when the flavor barely changed and the cigar retained its shape and burn. I took a walk around my house and found a swarm of ants gathered on the walkway leading to the front door. We’re talking about a massive invasion of thousands of ants, piled three high, crawling from the cracks to face the world for the first time. I had a cigarette lighter in my pocket and a nice white-hot ash ready to fall from my maduro.

Ants don’t like my hobby as much as I do.

UPDATE: the Perdomo image above is from Casa Fumado.

Reviewed by Mark McGinty, June 2010. Mark McGinty is the author of The Cigar Maker.


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