[VIDEO] Are E-Cigs the Market Solution that Can Save a Billion Lives?

“This is a market solution to one of the biggest health crises we’ve ever seen in the history of the world,” says Aaron Biebert, director of A Billion Lives, a documentary that makes the case that regulatory agencies and non-governmental organizations are engaged in a campaign of misinformation against e-cigarettes. “It’s disturbing to me that something that’s working is being demonized.”

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The FDA’s Cigar Fascism

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Consider this sequence of events.

During the Cold War, the Cuban government becomes communist and aligns with the Soviet Union, and many of that country’s productive citizens flee to the United States where property rights are more secure and government is more constrained. Cuba’s economy predictably fails and is kept afloat for years by foreign aid provided mostly by the Soviets. Meanwhile, Cuban businesses first take root, then flourish in the US, particularly in Miami, including a cigar industry based in Little Havana.

“The FDA’s policies — fascist in the sense that they allow for private ownership but government control — mean that, at the end of the day, the portion of the US cigar industry that escaped Cuba simply traded one repressive regime for another.”

Ironically, many of these cigar manufacturers succeed due to government intervention in the form of the Cuban trade embargo, enforced by the US government. Meanwhile, American demand for Cuban-grown and rolled cigars remains high, and many purchase them in extra-legal markets or on trips abroad — often when “abroad” translates to Mexico or Canada. I once met a man who smoked a Cuban cigar in the 1980s. It was such a profoundly pleasurable experience that he vowed to never smoke another cigar again.

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So it went until the Cuban embargo was lifted by the US government last year and questions arose about whether Miami-based cigar manufacturers would survive competition from los cigarros cubanos. Unfortunately, a threat bigger than competition emerged in the form of new rules for cigar manufacturers announced last week by the Food and Drug Administration.

[Read the full story here, at Mises Wire]

Based on the “duty to protect public health,” the FDA is requiring cigar manufacturers to comply with rules drawn up last year for the electronic cigarette market. These include the requirement of so-called “pre-authorization” applications and fees before being allowed to sell their product. These aren’t one-time tariffs either, as any decision to change tobacco blends in the future — a common practice in a premium cigar market responsive to consumer tastes and preferences — requires FDA permission involving new rounds of applications and fees.

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The costs are enormous and they especially affect the small business, as explained in a recent Miami Herald article:

“I mean I get it — you have to do what Uncle Sam says,” said Sandy Cobas, owner of El Titan, one of the 119 Miami businesses that Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado says depend on hand-rolled cigars. “But how are we going to be able to afford this?”

She isn’t alone, say industry experts like Marvin Shanken, founder, editor and publisher of Cigar Aficionado magazine.

“Miami, and South Florida in general, is the heart of the cigar industry,” Shanken said. “The impact will be most visible there, without a doubt.”

The FDA estimates that small businesses like El Titan, which produces 250,000 to 300,000 cigars per year, will pay $278,000 to $397,000 in application fees and other costs during the initial compliance period. While El Titan will be able to pass some of those fees on to the companies that hire it to make private-label smokes, it will still need to raise prices.

The new rules will have the greatest impact on companies less than a decade old, which will be required to apply for pre-market approval at an average cost of $6,560 per application, according to FDA estimates.

Fourth generation cigar roller, Jose Blanco, who opened Los Cumbres Tabaco in Doral in 2014, figures he will have to submit between 25 and 30 applications, which likely will cost more than $100,000. “For companies starting off in this business, you’re lucky to be breaking even like we are,” Blanco said.

Cigars sold prior to Feb. 15, 2007 — an estimated 60 percent of all cigars sold in the U.S., according to the FDA — are grandfathered in.

Though Tamarac-based Gurkha Cigars was incorporated in 1989 (the brand was first established in 1887), the company estimates it will pay $500,000 in legal costs on top of fees for 800 individual applications.

It’s a lot of money that harms small manufacturers to benefit large ones. In fact, it’s likely the large ones championed the FDA rules to provide them with more market power in a post-embargo world. It also reflects the first rule of government regulation of business, that regulation always causes secondary effects that are sometimes anticipated, and sometimes not. Read the rest of this entry »


Faith in Government Collapsing Everywhere: Kim Jong-Un Photographed Smoking a Cigarette While Visiting a Middle School 

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The heavy smoker had reportedly stopped smoking in public for 80 days after the government intensified its anti-smoking campaign.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has smoked a cigarette while visiting a school, a photo released by the North’s mouthpiece media shows, Sunday.

“It’s difficult to understand why the North Korean media stressed the detrimental effects of smoking and then showed Kim doing exactly that.”

In images provided by Korean Central Television (KCT), Kim is seen smoking in a gym and in a classroom while touring a middle school in Pyongyang.

The heavy smoker had reportedly stopped smoking in public for 80 days after the government intensified its anti-smoking campaign.

But he resumed smoking earlier last month at the Mangyongdae Children’s Camp in Pyongyang.

A North Korea expert said Kim may have resumed smoking in public to inspire nostalgia toward North Korean founder Kim Il-sung, who also smoked. Read the rest of this entry »


[PHOTO] Finer Things in Life

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[PHOTO] Cigars for Warriors

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Sometimes a Cigar is Just a Cigar

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[VIDEO] New Video, Radio Transmissions During Baltimore Riots Released

Demonstrators throw rocks at police in Baltimore after the funeral of Freddie Gray on Monday. Photo: Jose Luis Magana/Associated Press

“He got hit with a brick. We’re going to standby here. I can’t leave these officers here by themselves.”

BALTIMORE — Gina Cook reports:  When riots erupted in Baltimore in April, 150 cops were hurt as the city descended into chaos. Newly released video and radio transmissions are providing an additional viewpoint into just how confusing and tense it was for Baltimore Police.

“Hold the line! Do not go forward and do not chase them!”

Some of the audio makes it clear the leaders of the police department realized their officers were ill equipped for the escalating situation, Domen reports.

Surveillance video taken at the corner of North and Pennsylvania avenues shows the progression of the riots and looting.

The following video was obtained by the Baltimore Sun:

(NO AUDIO) City surveillance video obtained by The Sun shows the intersection of Pennsylvania and North avenues over the span of several hours on April 27, 2015. That intersection, one of several locations in Baltimore that saw disturbances that night in the wake of Freddie Gray’s death, became the epicenter for violence and protests for several days. (Baltimore Sun)

“Some of the audio makes it clear the leaders of the police department realized their officers were ill equipped for the escalating situation, Domen reports.”

WNEW’s John Domen reports police radio transmissions also provide a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the panic officers experienced during those hours. Read the rest of this entry »


Obama Kool: Discover Extra Coolness!

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[VIDEO] Are Cuban Cigars Really Better?

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Disney is Banning On-Screen Smoking in All Future Films, Even Marvel Movies

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Read more… Variety Magazine


[PHOTOS] The Beauty of a Good Cigar

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Source:


Oops! Barack Obama Has Likely Given a $9 Billion Boost to the Gun Industry (At Least)

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Philip Bump reports: On Monday afternoon, while the attention of the political media world was focused on events at the United Nations, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives announced that it was dropping plans to reclassify a particular form of ammunition. It was a rare success for a letter-signed-by-most-Republican-senatorsthis week, after Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) got most of his colleagues to sign on to a missive that captured an already-bubbling sentiment among conservatives. (That opponents of gun control measures won a victory, of course, is anything but a rare success.)

If you want the full back story, it’s here. But what we want to focus on is the phenomenon that has frequently resulted when the administration has either threatened new gun control measures or when the public has been worried that it might, as it did in the wake of the ATF’s recent announcement: Firearm sales skyrocket.

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As soon as Barack Obama won the 2008 election, gun sales spiked. The number of background checks (a point of data linked to gun sales numbers) increased by 50 percent over the rest of that year in November and December. (December figures are often higher, we’ll note, due to the popularity of giving weapons as Christmas presents.) The Aiken Standard in Aiken, S.C., wrote about spiking sales that December, quoting an employee at a local gun store: “There’s been a definite increase. It’s because a Democrat is in office, in my opinion.” Not quite in office, but you get the point.

To measure how big the Obama Gun Boom has been, we turned to the National Shooting Sports Foundation. It uses data on excise taxes collected by the government on weapon and ammunition sales to estimate the total market for those products. It provided its estimates from 1982 through the third quarter of last year to the Post.

Overall, the estimates look like this. We’ve shaded in the Obama Era as encompassing 2008 through 2014, due to the spike at the end of 2008. (That plays into our projections later, so bear that in mind.) Notice the spike in 1993, as well, the last time a Democrat assumed the presidency. And, of course, backed the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, which is precisely the sort of thing gun advocates fear. Read the rest of this entry »


Great Moments: Kennedy, Cuba and Cigars

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Pierre Salinger, Autumn 1992: Cigars have been a part of my life. My smoking habit began in my youth, helped me write my own adult history, and now, cigars are in my dreams. Even though the world is rising against smoking, and particularly against cigars, I still feel they are part of my daily world and I have no incentive to stop smoking them.

My cigar smoking started when I was young. I entered the United States Navy in the early days of World War II and when I reached the age of 19 I became commanding officer of a submarine chaser in the Pacific Ocean. But to run a ship that had 25 sailors and two other officers, all older than me, posed a deep psychological problem . How could I convince them that I was a man of authority? Even if the quality of those big cigars was mediocre, they accomplished their purpose–they made a 19-year-old boy really look like the commander of the ship.JFK-cigar4

When I returned to San Francisco after the war, I went back to a job at a daily newspaper where I had briefly worked before entering the Navy. I kept on smoking my cigars while I wrote articles. But the cigars were still bad cigars, and they obviously smelled bad. There was a wonderful woman journalist working for the newspaper who hated the smell. She decided to take up a collection among my fellow workers. She handed me $19.32 and told me it was her contribution for a better quality of cigars. Better cigars, better smell.

Despite the self-interested largess of my colleagues, I still did not advance to the cream of available cigars in those days, the imports from Cuba. Actually, I would have to wait until I was almost 35 years old before I started to work for a rising young American politician named John Kennedy, who liked to smoke Petit Upmann Cuban cigars. Working around him, I felt I had no choice but to upgrade my smoke of choice to a Cuban. I’ve smoked them ever since.

Shortly after I entered the White House in 1961, a series of dramatic events occurred. In April, 1961, the United States went through the disastrous error of the Bay of Pigs, where Cuban exiles with the help of the United States government tried to overthrow the government of Fidel Castro. Several months later, the President called me into his office in the early evening.

“Pierre, I need some help,” he said solemnly.

“I’ll be glad to do anything I can Mr. President,” I replied.

“I need a lot of cigars.”

“How many, Mr. President?”

“About 1,000 Petit Upmanns.”

I shuddered a bit, although I kept my reaction to myself. “And, when do you need them, Mr. President?”

“Tomorrow morning.”

I walked out of the office wondering if I would succeed. But since I was now a solid Cuban cigar smoker, I knew a lot of stores, and I worked on the problem into the evening.

The next morning, I walked into my White House office at about 8 a.m., and the direct line from the President’s office was already ringing. He asked me to come in immediately.

“How did you do Pierre?” he asked, as I walked through the door.

“Very well,” I answered. In fact, I’d gotten 1,200 cigars. Kennedy smiled, and opened up his desk. He took out a long paper which he immediately signed. It was the decree banning all Cuban products from the United States. Cuban cigars were now illegal in our country.

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The embargo complicated my life. The only time I could get a few Cuban cigars was when I traveled abroad with the President to countries like France, Austria and Great Britain. But then, in late May 1962, I went alone to Moscow for the first time. I met for two days with Nikita Khrushchev, talking face to face with the Soviet leader. As our meeting came to end, Khrushchev turned to me. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] How Cigars are Made

Cohiba Cigars, in Havana, 2008


Report: 57% of Cigarettes Sold in New York Are Smuggled

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December in New York, 2014

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Santa’s Smoke Break

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Hallucinogenic Plants May Be Key to Decoding Ancient Southwestern Paintings, Expert Says

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Dozens of rock art sites in southern New Mexico, recently documented for the first time, are revealing unexpected botanical clues that archaeologists say may help unlock the meaning of the ancient abstract paintings.

“Every one of the sites where we find the tobacco, we also find El Paso ceramics, or we find other kinds of pots…that date generally in that same range.”

Over a swath of the Chihuahuan Desert stretching from Carlsbad to Las Cruces, at least 24 rock art panels have been found bearing the same distinctive pictographs: repeated series of triangles painted in combinations of red, yellow, and black.

A rock art panel found at Dripping Springs, New Mexico depicts abstract triangle motifs. At this panel and others like it, potent wild tobacco was found growing beneath the image. Photograph enhanced with DStretch. (Courtesy L. Loendorf)

A rock art panel found at Dripping Springs, New Mexico depicts abstract triangle motifs. At this panel and others like it, potent wild tobacco was found growing beneath the image. Photograph enhanced with DStretch. (Courtesy L. Loendorf)

And at each of these sites, archaeologists have noticed similarities not just on the rock, but in the ground.61A-gXHiStL._SL250_

[Order the book “Plants of the Gods: Their Sacred, Healing, and Hallucinogenic Powers” from Amazon.com]

Hallucinogenic plants were found growing beneath the triangle designs, including a particularly potent species of wild tobacco and the potentially deadly psychedelic known as datura.

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Researchers believe that the plants may be a kind of living artifact, left there nearly a thousand years ago by shamans who  smoked the leaves of the plants in preparation for their painting.

“I think there’s a real good chance that they’re using tobacco in large enough amounts that they’re going into altered states of consciousness.”

“I think almost certainly that they’re trancing on this stuff,” said Dr. Lawrence Loendorf, president of the archaeological firm Sacred Sites Research, of the ancient artisans.

Wild tobacco found growing beneath rock art at Dripping Springs, with triangle motifs visible at right. (Courtesy L. Loendorf)

Wild tobacco found growing beneath rock art at Dripping Springs, with triangle motifs visible at right. (Courtesy L. Loendorf)

“I think there’s a real good chance that they’re using tobacco in large enough amounts that they’re going into altered states of consciousness, and I think that’s how [the hallucinogenic plants] are getting there.

“[They’re] getting to those sites because they were used for special ceremonial purposes.”

Wild tobacco bush (Solanum mauritianum)

Wild tobacco bush (Solanum mauritianum)

The region that Loendorf and his colleagues have been exploring was once home to the Jornada Mogollon, a culture of foraging farmers similar to the early Ancestral Puebloans, who occupied the territory from about the 5th to the 15th centuries. Read the rest of this entry »


Flights Delayed at JFK: Security Breach, Man ‘Went Out for a Smoke’

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smoke-planeNEW YORK–Authorities say an airline passenger who took a cigarette break caused a security scare at New York City’s Kennedy Airport that led to some flights delays.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey says it happened late Saturday afternoon in Terminal 8 after the man had gone through security screening and then went out to smoke. Read the rest of this entry »


A History of Tobacco in China 

Beijing news has a unique multi-page feature with rare illustrations, photos, and informative texts about the history of tobacco in China. The images load slowly (mileage may vary) but it’s worth every moment. Here’s a sample:

Qing Dynasty (AD 1644–1911) Emperor Kang Xi

Qing Dynasty (AD 1644–1911) Emperor Kang Xi

China’s anti-smoking movement was first recorded in 1639, when Ming Dynasty (AD 1368-1644) Emperor Chongzhen issued a national ban on tobacco and stipulated that tobacco addicts be executed. In 1637, Qing Dynasty (AD 1644–1911) Emperor Kangxi expanded the death penalty to those who possess tobacco.

An advertisement for Shanghai's Meili brand cigarettes in the 1920s.[Photo/tobaccochina.com]

An advertisement for Shanghai’s Meili brand cigarettes in the 1920s.[Photo/tobaccochina.com]

Advertisements featuring fashionable courtesans, or sing-song girls of Shanghai around the 1920s testified that the imported habit was trendy in what was then one of Asia’s biggest cities.

Read the rest of this entry »


Darrell Issa: Obama Administration Waging ‘a War on Guns’ with ‘Rogue’ ATF Sting Operations

Brendan Bordelon reports:  California Rep. Darrell Issa, the Republican chair of the House Oversight Committee, accused the Obama administration of waging “a war on guns” after new reports of “rogue” sting operations by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) conducted during 2013.

Daily Caller [VIDEO]

Daily Caller [VIDEO]

Issa spoke to Fox News’ Shannon Bream Sunday about a report by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, which claimed that ATF agents operating firearm stings in 6 separate cities “took advantage of the mentally ill, set up stings near churches and schools and made decisions which some claim actually increased crime in their neighborhoods.” Issa and Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley sent a letter to ATF Director Todd Jones this week to demand answers on the tactics and how often they’ve been used.

Read the rest of this entry »


Democracy in the Tobacconist’s

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“If I cannot smoke cigars in heaven,
 I shall not go!”
– attributed to Mark Twain

Jonah Goldberg  writes:  If you have read my articles for this magazine, or if you perused my last book, you may have detected the vague scent of tobacco wafting up from it. That is because I can often be found at my office away from the office: the cigar shop (specifically, Signature Cigars in Washington, D.C., the capital’s best tobacconist). When not there, I can often be found on the twelfth-floor balcony of the American Enterprise Institute, also with stogie in hand. A friend and former colleague and I gave this balcony a nickname, “The Remnant,” in homage to Albert Jay Nock’s notion of an irreducible sliver of right-thinking humanity separate and apart from the “Neolithic” masses.

Nock’s was a thoroughly elitist conception, which is ironic, since smoking cigars may be the most democratic thing I do. At the cigar shop, the clientele is mixed in nearly every way, though you wouldn’t say it “looks like America.” A large proportion of the African-American regulars are D.C. cops. In terms of professions, the crowd leans a bit too heavily toward lawyers (as does the nation’s capital). But there’s no shortage of contractors, manual laborers, college students, and retirees.

Politically, there are all types. As far as I can tell, the most ideologically conservative regular (me included) is a federal employee. The gender mix is thoroughly lopsided, of course. Women do occasionally come into the shop, but when they do, all eyes go up as if a unicorn had sauntered into a library. Dennis Prager, another gentleman of the leaf, has written that cigar shops may be the last place in America where men can congregate and talk as men. It’s not discrimination, mind you, it’s just that cigar smoke tends to have the same effect on the fairer sex that it has on mosquitoes.

What unites us all is a fondness for — or craving for — cigars, not tobacco per se mind you, but cigars. It is generally frowned upon to smoke cigarettes in a cigar shop. Pipes may be welcome (I for one think they have the best aroma), but I don’t think I have ever seen one smoked in a cigar shop, even though nearly all good tobacconists sell pipes and their associated sundries.

In football (a subject of near-constant discussion at the cigar shop) there’s a saying, “Watch the ball, not the man.” With cigars, something similar is at work. The camaraderie follows the leaf. On the road, I will often be seen outside my hotel preparing for a speech or writing a column with cigar in hand. Invariably another cigar smoker will catch the scent and, at a minimum, nod his appreciation. Often he will strike up a conversation about what I’m smoking or where there might be a good cigar shop in the area. One thing he will never do is ask for a cigar. Cigars are things of real value, emotionally and financially, and when they are given away, it’s as a gift. Cigarettes are filthy commodities shared among a lesser genus of addicts. There’s a reason it’s called “bumming a cigarette.”

Indeed, the similarities between cigars and cigarettes are more limited than you might think. For starters, you don’t inhale the smoke from cigars, at least not intentionally, which is one reason why the risks of lung cancer for cigar smokers are tiny when compared with those for cigarette smokers. Sadly, this fact often causes cigarette smokers to take up cigars, only to discover that they can’t kick the habit of inhaling, a practice that horrifies cigar aficionados and doctors alike.

Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] ATF: How to Fight Cigarette Smuggling by…Smuggling Cigarettes

Reason TV’s latest “Don’t Cops Have Better Things To Do”

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, (and Explosives!) has been fighting cigarette smuggling by smuggling cigarettes. Agents buy smokes in low-tax states like Virginia and sell them in high-tax states like New York. The sting operations are supposed to help build cases against smugglers, but ATF is cashing in too.

By law ATF may keep booty to cover “operational expenses.” As if the line between law breakers and law enforcers wasn’t blurry enough already, a recent inspector general report highlights a “serious lack of oversight” at the agency. Seems that confidential informants have been allowed pocket, not expenses, but profits amounting to millions of dollars. ATF agents have “misused” $162 million in sting operation profits and “lost track” of $420 million cigarettes. (Yes, this is the same ATF that lost more than a thousand weapons during the infamous Fast and Furious fiasco.) And if you’re having trouble distinguishing the “good” guys from the “bad” guys, just remember: The “good” guys are the ones who get taxpayer-funded salaries and pensions.

But hey, don’t federal agents have better things to do! Well, ATF’s own most-wanted list features men suspected of crimes like murder, so yeah, agents could focus more time busting violent criminals. Then again, cigarette smuggling is much more lucrative.

The timing of this couldn’t be worse for the ATF, either.

The Greenroom


George Jetson as Don Draper

George Jetson as Don Draper