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Commentary: What’s in a Name?

15 Dec 2011

OK, I guess this officially marks me as an old fogey or whatever the proper term is these days. But I believe that words matter, and I cannot understand the current trend of naming cigars with distasteful and sometimes offensive names. I also can’t help but worry that it’s a dangerous trend.

The latest to catch my eye and prompt this screed is the Molotov from Quesada, intended to “create awareness of the dangers increased government and taxation…” I have no argument with them promoting their views. But why use a name associated with a deadly device that, while sometimes used in noble causes, such as the Finns and Hungarians, has also been used by terrorists to maim and kill?

Similarly, there’s My Uzi Weighs a Ton, named, I’m told, after a rap song with which I’m unfamiliar. (I read the lyrics online, but I’ve got to admit it still didn’t mean much to me.) Again, why link a cigar with an instrument of war and death?

And that brings me to Hammer & Sickle. I can only guess that there’s some sort of irony intended rather than a celebration of one of the world’s most corrupt and murderous regimes. If there’s irony in the name Donkey Punch, it’s even harder for me to see. Sick, misogynistic, distressing. Again, that’s what I want associated with a cigar?

I can only assume that these sorts of names are intended to make the cigars more appealing to younger smokers. That worries me because I believe it plays into the hands of anti-smoking forces who want to lump all tobacco together and use the fear of youth being corrupted to achieve their goals.

It’s hard to argue that the makers of premium cigars aren’t targeting youth when someone points to names like these. They fit right in with the machine-made, adulterated cigars that, frankly, do appear to be aimed at teens. Don’t be surprised when someone shows up at a smoking-ban hearing with a Donkey Punch or My Uzi as Exhibit No. 1.

Now, I’m not suggesting manufacturers shouldn’t be allowed to call their cigars whatever they want. I’m about as close to a First Amendment absolutist as you’re likely to find. But exercising a right doesn’t mean you escape the consequences. And in this case, I think these marketers are doing the industry and its customers a great disservice.

We say over and over again that premium cigars are for adults and aren’t marketed to kids. Actions need to be as strong as words.

George E

photo credit: Google

20 Responses to “Commentary: What’s in a Name?”

  1. Ashburn Dave Thursday, December 15, 2011 at 7:28 am #

    I'm with you. I don't need my cigar trying to make a statement for me. It's a shame that this practice is paying off.

  2. Fred Thursday, December 15, 2011 at 7:59 am #

    Agreed, it seems like many cigar makers are putting more into creating an edgy marketing strategy than making a quality cigar. When I see cigars with silly names I tend to dismiss them.

  3. Matt Thursday, December 15, 2011 at 8:29 am #

    Excellent perspective and some very valid points. I admit I hadn't thought of this naming trend in these terms before however you make some very strong and valid points. It is not hard at all to see the anti-smoking zealots using those naming examples in exactly the way you describe. It almost seems likely that they will which doesn't bode well for cigars….

  4. Kevin Thursday, December 15, 2011 at 9:29 am #

    Thanks drew estate.

    • Patrick A Thursday, December 15, 2011 at 9:42 am #

      Drew Estate makes some excellent smokes, and I do sincerely thank them for that. But I agree with my colleague that a name like "My Uzi Weighs a Ton," while probably intended to just be fun, neither appeals to me nor helps the cause for greater cigar freedom.

      The flip side of this argument is that if we let the anti-smoking zealots dictate how cigars are named, they have already won.

      • Fred Thursday, December 15, 2011 at 10:38 am #

        I get the strategy behind cigars like MUWAT, to a new cigar smoker walking into his local b&m the edgy name or distinctive packaging is going to stand out, just like CAO did with the vision. I wish cigar makers would realize that if they made decently priced cigars that smoke well they wouldn't need gimmicky marketing tricks.

  5. Chris Thursday, December 15, 2011 at 9:43 am #

    I agree, George. I refuse to smoke Hammer & Sickle for exactly the reasons you laid out. Haven't had any of the others, either, though the MUWAT Bait Fish tempted me. But when it comes to turning Communism into kitsch or branding, I can't do it.

    • Fred Thursday, December 15, 2011 at 10:34 am #

      The Cold War ended a long time ago. Its a sign of the progress that's been made that we can laugh about it now. That being said the reason I've avoided Hammer and Sickle is because companies that have to rely on gimmickry to move their product probably aren't selling anything I want to smoke in the first place. More companies need to learn from Oliva and Padron.

      • George E Thursday, December 15, 2011 at 10:43 am #

        Fred – I understand your point, but I fear trivializing the truly horrendous and evil runs the risk of dangerously desensitizing us. That's why I don't like to see the word Nazi bandied about to describe any sort of zealot and not one of the most horrible regimes in human history. Similarly, Stalin was a murdeous maniac on par with Hitler and to "celebrate" anything to do with that seems wrong to me.

  6. Bill Thursday, December 15, 2011 at 11:06 am #

    I agree with you George. I think the best way to stop it is to refuse to buy cigars with stupid names. Hammer and Sickle is so offensive to me that I would throw it in the garbage before I would smoke it. But hey what's the big deal about the murder of a few million people?

    • Max Friday, December 16, 2011 at 7:31 am #

      And yet i bet you would have no problem with a CAO America even though america wages dirty wars across the globe to get oil and keep the us weapons industry going.

      • Bill Friday, December 16, 2011 at 10:27 am #

        Yes I like the Cao America. It is a great name and a great Cigar.

        You may want to brush up on your history.

      • George E Friday, December 16, 2011 at 11:02 am #

        Max – I can't imagine there's a nation on earth that hasn't had some terrible activities in its history. The issue for me, though, is whether you're "celebrating" those activities. I can't, for example, imagine anyone having a problem with a product named Argentina. But would you want to call it "Dirty War"?

  7. Anthony Thursday, December 15, 2011 at 5:18 pm #

    If silly cigar names are bad because they help the anti-cigar/smoking crowd make the case that cigar companies are purposely trying to indoctrinate minors, then what does it say about a cigar website whose editorials appear not far from an avatar of a baby with the caption, "Stogie Tips: Five Rules for Introducing Someone to Cigars." Cigars with commie names or those named after rap lyrics seem in my opinion less controversial .

    • George E Thursday, December 15, 2011 at 5:49 pm #

      Anthony – I do think there's a difference. A photo of a baby with a cigar (or a cigarette, for that matter) would hardly give the product appeal to a teenager. And while I think the photo does qualify as "silly," and perhaps some of the cigar names do as well, I wouldn't use that label for all of those cigar names,

  8. Chris Thursday, December 15, 2011 at 6:14 pm #

    George, I tend to agree. To me the names are less offensive than they are just dumb.
    Most times the cigar industry appears to be run as a hobby meant to amuse those involved rather than a sophisticated business. Don't get me wrong, some companies "get it" but too many rely on gimicks or STALE tactics to prop up their brands. Make a good stick and market it like you live in 2011. Lowest common denominator marketing (boobs, silly names, etc.) is unimaginative. The industry needs to get serious.

  9. Anthony O. Thursday, December 15, 2011 at 6:29 pm #

    I agree with you George. The names not only tend to offend, (for me reference to a gun or weapon is worse than hammer and sickle, that is just nit picking though…) it makes one think that the cigar makers are more concerned with image than what is in the smoke. The divine pleasure of the leaf doesn't need that cheesiness. I don't buy those smokes and won't.

  10. Swede214 Thursday, December 15, 2011 at 8:54 pm #


  11. cigarfan Friday, December 16, 2011 at 1:11 pm #

    Silly names and stupid marketing strategies debase the product. This doesn't limit a marketing executive's decision to be silly and stupid — I understand that this is an inalienable right — but as a consumer I can't help but recoil a bit. I avoided Arganese cigars for a long time just because of their offensive advertising and marketing schemes. I was a little disappointed to find out it was a decent smoke after all.

  12. Pedro Friday, December 16, 2011 at 2:02 pm #

    Well said. Since the moment I saw this cigar being called MUWAT, I was completely turned off. Don't forget about all of those gimmicky Viajes named after bombs and celebrating the destruction of a people. Some people sink to very low places for a buck. I for one, refuse to buy any of this crap coming out. I will stick to my regular, trusted, simply named favorites.