The federal tax on each cigar could rise from 5 cents to $10
Published July 17, 2007

It's no mathematical error: The federal government has proposed raising taxes on premium cigars, the kind Newman's family has been rolling for decades in Ybor City, by as much as 20,000 percent.

As part of an increase in tobacco taxes designed to pay for children's health insurance, the nickel-per-cigar tax that has ruled the industry could rise to as much as $10 per cigar.

Now they are trying to take my cigars away! The maximum tax of $10 would destroy most of the manufacturers who rely on relatively high volume sales of $5-$10 cigars. Some good friends of mine will be instantly out of business.

The high-end Fuentes (Opus-X, Forbidden-X, God of Fire, and the Ashton VSG and ESG Lines), Padrons, Davidoffs, and, of course, the $500 Ghurka stick dipped in billion year old cognac, will not be as adversely effected.

A consequence of the higher tax will be even greater demand for the finest Havanas, which would mean everything you buy in Mexico and Canada will be either fake or seconds (lower quality cigars). London, Spain, Switzerland and Dubai are the best in that arena. 

Ryan Carlson muses:

Can cigar smokers tell different brands apart?

Recreational smokers (a few cigars/month) probably couldn't distinguish between most brands but they can definitely tell the difference between a good or bad cigar. There is a large difference in the strength of brands so perhaps that'd be a better reference point.

I have a few favorites and could probably pick them out of a large selection but try not to go beyond a few brands, so I'd be clueless on the rest. 

David Hillman explains:

 I don't know of anyone who can tell brands apart blind, even experts. Cigars are rated in blind tests; the properties are evaluated, just like wine, but that's merely subjective. They're also like wine in that they're made of tobacco of different vintages, from different origins, often blended, and though manufacturers attempt to maintain some consistency, there can be substantial variation, even from cigar to cigar within a box. The proliferation of seed worldwide, such as Honduran tobacco grown from Cuban seed, and variations in aging make the task more difficult as well.

For instance, one of my favorites, Perdomo's La Tradicion Cabinet Series, is constructed of Cuban-seed fillers grown in the Dominican Republic, Honduras, and Nicaragua, with an Ecuadorian binder and wrappers from Connecticut. Their milder line, Tobaccos San Jose, uses a blend of fillers from the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Brazil, binders from the Dominican Republic and Connecticut wrappers. The bolder Dos Rios line is primarily Nicaraguan filler with some Dominican Republic tobacco as well, the binder is Nicaraguan, the wrappers Ecuadorian. There are sub-series within the Cabinet Series, as well as the limited Champagne sub-sub-editions, so there's great variation within brands, too.

Moreover, cigars can/will acquire aromas and tastes of those they're next to in the humidor, so it's important to separate them from one another. Also, as with wine, good cigars improve over time, becoming smoother, more flavorful and complex with age if stored properly. I believe it might possible to tell a frequently smoked cigar with a reasonable consistency apart from others in the blind. I'm nowhere near good enough and don't smoke enough to with regularity, but I might have a better chance than the average Swisher Sweets smoker of batting, let's say, 2%. On the other hand, expert Grade seven rollers and master blenders are certainly capable of carefully examining a cigar and determining the type of tobacco used and its origin — is it a Cuban Cohiba or a Nicaraguan El Fako?

A novice wanting a good, reasonably priced smoke might sample a Monte Cristo #3, the Perdomo La Tradicion Cabinet Series R Champagne Robusto, or the La Flor Dominicana #100 (Tubo), all about $8.00 per. There are many others, these are simply a few that suit me.

All this talk of puros has gotten me fired up, but one last thing in this regard before I head out to the deck to chomp on one of the said Tubo #100s: It would be wise to refrain from entering into a high-stakes blind cigar tasting with a certain former world leader (whom I revere for his ingenuity in tobbaconistic matters). He may very well have found a sure-fire way to gain an advantage in distinguishing his 'brand' from all others in a blind taste test.

Aaron Krizik responds:

A lot of parallels can be drawn to oenology. I am highly confident I can tell the difference between branded cigars from Nicaragua vs. the Dominican Republic and certainly Cuba, but I doubt I could tell the difference between 10 randomly selected Cubans. It's easy to tell the difference between a Merlot and a Cabernet Sauvignon, but 10 randomly selected Merlots would be a challenge for most wine drinkers.

A Nicaraguan cigar like a Padron is just completely different from an Ashton with Dominican filler and a gorgeous "shade" wrapper from Connecticut. I could easily tell the difference between the two — or any other cigar I regularly smoke. Tobacco from Esteli, Nicaragua is simply very different from Vuelta Abajo tobacco from Cuba.

Larry Williams remarks:

With appologies to Guy Clark

Too much smoking gives you cancer
Too much cocaine's not the answer

Too much invested just on margin
Too many lawyers come in chargin'

 Mike Desaulniers extends:

I got back from two weeks in the motherland on Sunday. Caught some excellent weather in Vancouver, and not one local offered me any BC smoking material. My record for unsolicited offers walking through Washington Square Park in New York (granted, on the diagonal) was five.

There were huge displays of patriotism on Canada Day, more than I ever remember on previous visits. Everyone in the West End (downtown residential) had flags out windows. I saw more than one group walking on Robson St. shopping district, singing Oh Canada. It was quite striking. The Canadian dollar's rally must be going to their heads, eh?





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