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Are cigars endangered? - Tom Purcell

Are premium cigars next on the federal government's hit list?

You see, as part of the 2010 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has the authority "to regulate marketing and promotion of tobacco products and to set performance standards for tobacco products to protect the public health."

Though the law does not automatically apply to cigars, the FDA can issue new regulations that make cigars subject to the law.

Boy, does that have premium cigar advocates worried.

They say the FDA could force cigar shops to keep cigars under lock and key -- maybe even put them behind black curtains, where customers are not permitted to see or touch them.

They say marketing prohibitions could forbid them from handing out samples. Decorative artwork common to cigar boxes could be replaced with dire health warnings.

They say blended cigars could require FDA approval, ingredient disclosure and hefty FDA fees -- which will drive costs through the roof.

I smoke a premium cigar maybe five or six times a year. Why? I don't know. Maybe it's the manly feeling I get when I see my breath billow out of me like a chimney.

Maybe I want to be in the company of legendary cigar smokers, such as Mark Twain, Winston Churchill and Art Rooney.

Maybe it's just for the relaxation. There's something calming about taking a slow, deep drag on a stogie. It's like male yoga -- for males who would never do yoga.

Sure, there are health risks to those who smoke cigars on a daily basis. Such smokers are more prone to cancer of the mouth and other maladies -- and fully aware of the risk.

But moderate cigar smokers?

Unlike cigarette smokers, moderate cigar smokers don't inhale the thick stogie smoke. They don't become addicted to nicotine. And, at $10 a pop, premium cigars aren't likely to end up in the hands of underage kids.

That's why the typical cigar smoker is a middle-aged fellow with a big gut and a big car. He worked hard in his younger years, saved some dough and now he can relax a little.

You see him at picnics and other occasions sipping fine bourbon and enjoying an hour-long smoke of a hand-rolled leaf.

You'd think in a free country such a relatively harmless pastime would be of no interest to the federal government.

But in this nutty day and age, we have our vices all mixed up.

It wasn't so long ago that smoking was considered just a vice, whereas a fellow who had children with one or more women he was not married to was considered a menace to society.

Not long ago a fellow who took on more debt than he could manage was considered a fool. Now he demands government relief and our sympathy -- and gets both.

Not long ago, a fellow who spent every waking moment getting high was called a pothead. Now many are eager to legalize marijuana, so the government can collect taxes from his behavior.

In our progressive times, many bad behaviors are considered mere vices, whereas mere vices, such as cigar smoking, are considered truly evil.

Tobacco smokers are as loathed as mass murderers and other genuinely evil people, whereas truly bad behaviors are given a pass.

So you can see why, in a world turned upside down, the cigar folks are so worried.

Isn't it just a matter of time before government do-gooders draft nutty Tobacco Act cigar regulations that send the premium cigar industry up in smoke?

Tom Purcell, a freelance writer, is also a humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. E-mail Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.