Florida Cigar Biz Rattled by Hurricane Wilma

Miami - The 2005 Atlantic hurricane season had already shattered a number of longstanding records when hurricane Wilma sliced across Florida on October 24, officially taking its place as the recording-breaking fourth major hurricane to make landfall in the U.S. this season. The devastating storm, which had previously reached category five status and became the fiercest Atlantic hurricane ever recorded as it churned towards western Cuba days earlier, was a formidable category three storm when it made landfall in Florida.

Few cigar businesses, which are largely concentrated in southern Florida, went unaffected, and most were forced to close for several days in the immediate aftermath of the storm, due to a lack of electricity and other basic services. The storm left uprooted trees, downed power lines, flooded streets, and structural damage to thousands of buildings and residences. A number of cigar businesses turned to generators to power warehouses and basic office operations until power was restored. Companies from Miami, including Camacho Cigars, Miami Cigar & Co., Padrón Cigars, Inc., and La Flor Dominicana, as well as Fort Lauderdale-based Altadis U.S.A., were closed for several days.

Indian Tabac Cigar Co., located in Naples, Fla. - which was in the direct path of Wilma - suffered a week of setbacks to its operations, but returned to full capacity by Friday, October 28.

Cigars around the World, the Miami operation of Synergy Brands, Inc. reported limited operating capabilities following the storm as a result of the power loss and turned to back-up generator power to allow for processing of online and wholesale orders. The company also delayed the opening of its first Cigars Around the World retail store, which was scheduled for the first week of November.

California Becomes Third State to Require “Fire-Safe” Cigarettes Beginning January 2007

Sacramento, CA - Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed legislation in October requiring that all cigarettes sold in California comply with reduced ignition propensity (RIP) standards by January 1, 2007. The state joins New York and Vermont, as well as Canada, as jurisdictions requiring manufacturers to distribute the special versions of their products.

Vermont’s fire-safe legislation, which was signed in into law in June 2005, goes into effect May 1, 2006. New York state was the first jurisdiction in the world to require RIP cigarettes, which have been mandatory since June 2004 and which, according to supporters, have been accepted just fine by consumers.

So called “fire-safe” cigarettes self-extinguish when left unsmoked, a fact that RIP supporters say greatly reduces the chance of accidental fires. RIP cigarettes contain bands, also called speed bumps, along the length of the cigarette. If smokers don’t draw on the cigarette when it burns down to a speed bump, the cigarette self-extinguishes.

With more states passing or considering their own RIP laws, supporters see the likelihood of national standards becoming more likely. Congressman Edward Markey (D-MA) has already called upon tobacco manufacturers to sell RIP cigarettes nationwide and has even authored legislation to create a federal standard for “fire-safer” cigarettes.

While major U.S. cigarette manufacturers have altered the design of their cigarette brands sold in New York state, currently none are distributing or selling the RIP versions in other markets. Manufacturers have long contended that consumers find the products inferior in performance.

Pipe Clubs Celebrate 57th Annual IAPSC Convention

Mt. Pleasant, MI - Since its inception in 1949, the International Association of Pipe Smokers Clubs has held an annual convention featuring the IAPSC World Pipe Smoking Championship and pipe show. This year’s event took place on October 21 - 22 at Riverwood Resort in Mt Pleasant, Mich., and was hosted by the Tri Cities Pipe Club of Saginaw, Mich.

The festivities began on Friday night at a hospitality suite with plenty of food, drink, and live music well into the night provided by The Rythym Billies, an old-time string band.

The pipe show opened to the public on Saturday morning at 9am. Vendors displaying new and estate pipes, tobaccos, cigars, and accessories included Hermit Tobacco, Bill Kotyk, Keith Geml of Bjarne Pipes, Paul’s Pipe Shop, Dennis Cullinan of Red Bell Pipes, pipemakers Russ Cook of Michigan, and Larry Comeaux of Tennessee, among others.

“The IAPSC would like to thank all who donated prizes for the contest, with a special thank you to Altadis USA for their continuing generosity and support,” said Rick L. Manges, director of public relations, IAPSC.

While pipe smoking isn’t said to be much of a spectator sport, the action does get quite tense near the end. When all was said and done, Tom Whetzell of Arkansas, with a time of one hour, 25 minutes, 58 seconds became this year’s IAPSC pipe smoking champion. Coy Howard of Kentucky, and David Ziozios of Michigan finished second and third, respectively. Debbie Bundy of Michigan finished in 10th place overall and was the top female smoker.

An awards banquet dinner was held later in the evening, featuring a prime rib dinner and several raffles and auctions, including one for a fine piece by S&R Pipes.

The IAPSC is an organization dedicated to promoting pipe smoking and smoker’s rights in general. The organization extends an ongoing invitation to all pipe smokers to participate in this annual event, rich in heritage and tradition.

For more information, contact Rick L. Manges, IAPSC, Email: rckmng@netscape.net, or visit www.iapsc.net.

J.C. Newman 110th Anniversary Contest Winners Named

Tampa, FL - J.C. Newman Cigar Company announced the winners of its 110th Anniversary contest, whereby participants had to correctly count all 29 of the hidden “110’s” within a picture of the company’s historic Ybor City clock tower and factory.

Jeff Vogel from Ohio has won an-all-expense-paid two night/three day stay at the Don Cesar Resort and Spa in St. Petersburg, Fla. and a tour of the J.C. Newman Cigar factory. Bells House of Tobacco in Ohio is the Grand Prize-winning smoke shop where the winner placed his entry, and won a party for 110 of their best customers along with the company of the Newman family. Both grand prize winners also receive a limited-edition 110th Anniversary humidor.

Additional contest winners include Tim Vanderpool, Omaha, Ne., (first prize); Wayne Cobb, retailer Pete’s Tobacco, Anchorage, Ak. (second prize); and Pars and Cigars, Tampa, Fla., winner for the most entries nationwide.

To enter, consumers simply had to submit their completed entry form to their participating smoke shop.

2005 Montecristo Cup Charity Golf Event Raises $175K For Hurricane Relief

Puerto Rico - The Seventh Annual Montecristo Cup Charity Pro Am, sponsored by Altadis U.S.A., raised more than $175,000 to help hurricane victims in the Caribbean and the United States rebuild their lives. The tournament, held November 30th - December 3rd at the Hyatt Dorado Beach Resort and Country Club in Puerto Rico, drew over 100 amateur and professional golfers from the Champions Tour, including 2005 Player of the Year Dana Quigley and Team Te-Amo. Amateur foursomes played with a different professional each day, with the entire event spanning three days on the famed Dorado Beach East Course.

Proceeds from the tournament benefit the World of Montecristo Relief Organization, founded by Altadis U.S.A. in 1998 to provide aid for hurricane victims in the Caribbean.

Closest-to-the-pin prizes were awarded every day, as were trophies for the first, second, and third place finishers. At Saturday night’s final banquet, the overall winners, based on total score for the three days, were honored. Two amateur foursomes tied for first place: John Manning, Gary Scott, Tim Morris, and John Gleber; and Jim Colucci, Devon Quigley, Paul Del Rossi, and Abdiel Ortiz.

For more information about the Montecristo Cup and the World of Montecristo Relief Organization, contact Janelle Rosenfeld at (954) 938-7837 or jrosenfeld@altadisusa.com.

Köhne Marks 90th Birthday

The senior associate of the leaf tobacco company Hellmering, Köhne & Co., Walter Köhne, celebrated his 90th birthday on the October 29. In addition to his activity in the company, he was co-founder and chief executive director of the German-Indonesian Tobacco Trading Company (Deutsch-Indonesische Tabak-Handelsgesellschaft) and also co-founded the Tobacco Exchange of Bremen (Bremer Tabakbörse). While being closely involved in the Indonesian tobacco market for over 45 years, Köhne has given it essential impulses. To this very day, he still has a share of the activities in this special market. Thomas Bendheim has been appointed president and chief executive officer of The Colibri Group. Frederick N. Levinger remains as non-executive chairman of the company and will help transition Bendheim into his new role.

Bendheim, who has successfully grown consumer branded companies, was previously president and c.e.o. of The Rheingold Brewing Company; executive vice president and c.o.o. of Dooney & Bourke; and vice president of marketing for Dansk International Designs, a division of Lenox Brands.

PNC Park to Roll Out Montecristo Cigar Bar
Baseball Fans Recognized as Viable Market

Pittsburgh, PA - PNC Park, the home of the Pittsburgh Pirates which experimented last season with a half-dozen cigar nights by setting aside an area for aficionados to light up, has decided to make more formal accommodations for cigar fans in the form of a dedicated cigar bar for season ticket holders. Pirates management disclosed that the Montecristo Club, a cigar and martini bar, “is definitely in the mix” for changes on the ballpark’s club level, where first-year season ticket holders pay $2,000 each for seat licenses.

The decision is a direct result of last season’s successful cigar nights.

“It was kind of a test of whether or not it was a viable opportunity to draw additional customers to PNC Park,” said Laurie Silverman of CX2, a New Castle, Penn. distributor of premium cigars. Silverman organized the events, which she said attracted no complaints. “There’s a huge consumer interest in having this type of venue done,” she said. Comerica Park in Detroit and Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., currently have cigar bars.

Joey DiSalvo, a local restaurateur who helped put together the Montecristo Club deal between the Pirates and Florida-based cigar maker Altadis U.S.A., said, “They’re trying to do things that are nice, and have unique things at the stadium, like they do all over the country.” DiSalvo, who operates an upscale restaurant in Latrobe, said he’ll supply the cigars for the venture.

News about the cigar bar, however, has some non-smoking season ticket holders fuming, claiming they’ll be crowded out of a favorite haunt that currently occupies the cigar bar’s future location and taking the organization to task for “secrecy” surrounding its implementation. But club spokeswoman Patty Paytas said plans for the Montecristo Club are already in the final stages, and that it would not mark a departure from the park’s no-smoking policy inside the outdoor seating area.

“We’re definitely not going out there and promoting smoking, especially not promoting smoking to youth,” she said. “This provides another designated area.”

The cigar smoking section would represent less than nine percent of the seating area in the club level section, according to Paytas. Mike Thompson, a season ticket representative, disclosed further details about the bar: “It will be a self-contained area with seating in sections 207-208. The club itself will have the smoking areas inside only and [smoke] will be filtered out of the building so as not to affect the surrounding seating areas in the ballpark.”

SMOKESHOP - December, 2005