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Commentary: A Cigar State of the Union

13 Jan 2016


Last night President Obama delivered his final State of the Union address. In that spirit, I offer my thoughts on the state of the cigar industry as we enter 2016.

In many ways, the state of cigars is as strong as it has ever been. This is our tenth year publishing, and the cigars being released today are of highest quality they have ever been.

Consumers are better educated, and they demand more of their cigars. Cigar companies have largely delivered better quality and more interesting flavors. One of the best trends is that new competition continues to challenge the status quo, which drives up quality.

Take a look at various top cigar lists and you’ll see lots of newer companies represented. Fortunately, their success isn’t a result of more established companies slacking off. Rather, the bar is continually rising. I honestly believe the tenth-rated cigar on most “Best of 2015” lists would have beat the number one cigar five or ten years ago.

Another sign of the health of the state of cigars is the fact that even those who have achieved the financial success to walk away rarely do. Statistically, when someone announces they are stepping down or retiring from a job in cigars, it most likely just means they are planning their return, armed with the lessons of their experience.

At the cigar shops you can see how all this benefits cigar smokers. The days where the vast majority of cigars for sale in most shops are made by a handful of the largest companies are increasingly in the past. Cigars have to earn shelf space more than ever, and companies large and small are upping their game to compete for that valuable space.

In short, cigar smokers have more and better choices than ever before. That’s the good news. But there are dark clouds on the horizon.

Impending FDA regulation continues to hover over the cigar industry with the potential to devastate the thriving competition that we’re enjoying. The fact that we enter 2016 without those regulations is a good sign, but literally any day regulations could be finalized. One cigar company executive told me not long ago that he expected many smaller cigar companies couldn’t survive FDA regulations, and I’m afraid that’s probably true.

The delay in the finalized FDA rules shows there is division within the executive branch over the extent of the need for regulation over cigars. While that’s a testament to the work of organizations that lobby for cigar rights, it doesn’t change the fact that the only way to fully stop FDA regulation would take an act of Congress. Going forward, cigar rights groups would benefit from more long-term strategy, instead of pinning their hopes to last-minute Hail Mary attempts to slip riders into massive appropriations bills.

Elsewhere, cigar rights are on defense, too. Smoking bans are not being repealed anywhere, while proposals for expanded bans and increased tobacco taxes continue to flourish.

We have work to do. There may never have been a better time to be a cigar smoker. Keeping it that way, though, won’t be easy. The old saying is eternal vigilance is the price of freedom; when it comes to the freedom to enjoy cigars, that has never been more true.

Patrick S

photo credit: Wikipedia

2 Responses to “Commentary: A Cigar State of the Union”

  1. Tom Goober Wednesday, January 13, 2016 at 8:56 am #

    Much of the industry is singing and smiling and doesn’t realize that they are standing on the gallows and there is a noose around their neck.

  2. JMac Wednesday, January 13, 2016 at 3:17 pm #

    The cigar blogosphere and a handful of magazines are about the only marketing options for cigar manufacturers. These marketing guys figured out early on that the only way to keep in the eye of the bloggers is to keep releasing new cigars. The whole concept of “small batch” plays right into this hand. Here this year, gone next year. Wait, we tweaked it. New release; new review. It’s a hunger that cannot be sated. Amazing how bloggers continue to appropriate flavor descriptors from the English language to embellish reviews. Cracks me up. But it all goes away if the FDA ruins the party, and then what do we read? One thing you never read in a cigar blog is hate-mongering. So maybe I spend less time online if the cigar bloggers have to close up shop. Still recommend stocking up on your recent favorite blends. Just in case.