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February,
2004

CIGARS: STILL AN INTEGRAL, STYLISH,
NOBLE HALLMARK OF NEGOTIATIONS

The proverbial smoke-filled back room may be largely a thing of the past, these days but the cigar's inextricable link with captains of industry and people of power remains strong. Even in the face of tough anti-smoking laws.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a well-known cigar lover, likes to make important deals over informal chats, it has been said, often without a formal agenda. A heart-to-heart meeting of the minds. Two people. Mano y mano. For Schwarzenegger, more often than not, such encounters apparently include a cigar. (According to a recent National Public Radio press report, the actor-turned-governor is partial to pricey Daniel Marshal cigars).

California state law prohibits smoking in all government and public buildings, of course, so cigars are persona non grata in the statehouse. Not to be left without his crucial social forum, Schwarzenegger has turned to an outdoor courtyard off his office to create what might be the state's most exclusive cigar lounge - a canvas, 11 x 11 foot tent with astroturf grass that has served the governor well. Time spent chatting with legislators in the unposh setting over a cigar have been widely credited with the governor's success in winning approval of his first state budget. For anyone who meets with the governor personally, you're nearly guaranteed to receive a custom made cigar with his signature on the label upon your departing handshake. Anti-smokers are, of course, crying foul.

Clear across the country is the beleaguered New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg who single-handedly snuffed out nearly all smoking in the Big Apple, but who's found himself mired in a bit of cigar-related controversy himself. The man who's told smokers to "be adults" and to "just get over it" in regard to the ban, recently found himself at a black-tie gathering of captains of industry - Wall Street's Kappa Beta Phi Society, at the St. Regis Hotel. Nearly a third of the attendees reportedly lit up cigars, to which the Mayor reportedly turned a blind eye. It's one thing, I guess, to anger the electorate, but quite another to incur the wrath of a powerful and wealthy base of political donors. The act of civil disobedience wasn't without fallout, though: While the Mayor later stated that he didn't recall any smoking during the evening, the hotel has incurred the wrath of the city's health department, which is itself investigating the incident.

Of course, it's not always about business or politics. Cigar smoking is above all a social endeavor. Further downtown in New York at the 116-year-old Players Club, a long-time gathering place for creative types in the arts, decided enough was enough and filed suit against New York in December claiming the ban is unconstitutional and violates Amendment rights. Among the club's member's are Joel Sherman, president of Nat Sherman, Inc., who is furious over the use of flawed science and misconstrued statistics to discriminate against smokers.

How odd that those in power must dance around laws, find unorthodox ways to comply with laws, or flat out break laws, all in the name of a cigar. What would Churchill ever think?

E. Edward "Ted" Hoyt III
Editor