19 Aug 2008
Today Cigar Rights of America launches a four-day, five-city whirlwind “Freedom Tour” in Chicago. The event will be followed by tour stops in Milwaukee, Minneapolis, and New York before a final gathering in Orlando on Friday. The list of cigar makers attending the events reads like your dream humidor: Toraño, Ozgener, Rocky Patel, Padilla, Padrón, Avo, Drew, Oliva, Fuente…you get the idea.
In late May we first got word of the formation of Cigar Rights of America (CRA), a new organization whose stated goals are “to fight unjustified tax increases and halt smoking bans.” The organization’s logo (which looks like a silhouette of George Washington holding a cigar) and rhetoric hearken back to America’s founding principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The website announces:
“On a daily basis, your freedom to enjoy a cigar is being stripped away by an overzealous, anti-smoking movement. Their tactics are varied; be it through supporting onerous cigar taxes or lobbying government for restrictive smoking bans. The anti-smoking movement will stop at nothing short of the complete prohibition of tobacco.”
I recently spoke with Jeff Borysiewicz, owner of the three Corona Cigar Company locations, who described the details, goals, and challenges of the new organization, which aims to be the consumers’ voice against cigar taxes, bans, and other regulations.
Legally the CRA is a 501(c)(4), which means it is a grassroots membership organization that can advocate for or against legislation but cannot accept tax-deductible donations. Examples of other 501(c)(4) organizations include The National Rifle Association, MoveOn.org, and the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP).
Borysiewicz describes some “friction” from other industry groups, particularly the International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers (IPCPR) Association, but he thinks they now see the value of a new organization that focuses exclusively on representing cigar smokers, as opposed to retailers or cigar manufacturers. He envisions the CRA, the IPCPR, and the CAA (Cigar Association of America) as an Army, Air Force, and Navy ready to defend the rights of cigar smokers against harmful taxes and regulations.
While the CRA is currently dependent on industry sources for funding, the idea is for it to be completely self-sufficient within a few years. The aim of the “Freedom Tour” is to recruit 4,000 members. Within a year or two, Borysiewicz says the goal is a hundred thousand members or more—all fully activated and involved in fighting for their rights.
For details on the CRA “Freedom Tour” visit CigarRights.org.