Cigar Rights of America Celebrates 10th Anniversary!

This week marks the tenth anniversary of a special moment in the premium cigar industry. It was called, “Freedom Tour.”

Following a series of meetings in Houston, Texas during the annual Retail Tobacco Dealers Association (today’s IPCPR) a group of industry leaders realized something different had to be done to work for the protection of the premium cigar interests of the nation, with a focus on building a consumer coalition that would echo the message – leave my cigars, alone.

The vision was outlined in an August 11, 2008 Cigar Aficionado article written by Greg Mottola when he stated, “On a daily basis, your freedom to enjoy a cigar is being stripped away by an overzealous antismoking movement.” He was quoting from the original CRA web site. It’s still true today, but the opposition is hearing from our side, for a change.

On this day in 2008, over twenty titans of the cigar industry split up, and headed to Milwaukee and Minneapolis. This was following a kick-off dinner the evening before in New York City, and followed by stops in Chicago and Orlando. The Freedom Tour was on the move. The names included Avo Uvezian, Carlos Fuente Sr., Carlos Fuente Jr., Christian Eiroa, Eric Newman, Ernesto Perez-Carrillo, Jorge Padrón, Jose Oliva, Keith Park, Litto Gomez, Manuel Quesada, Nick Perdomo, Pete Johnson, Robert Levin, and Rocky Patel. Florida based retail tobacconists Jeff Borysiewicz of Corona Cigar Company and Abe Dababneh of Smoke Inn were also early visionaries of the CRA movement.

This is something that we should’ve done 10 years ago,” Robert Levin, president of Ashton Distributors and current CRA board chairman, told Cigar Aficionado on August 11, 2008. “It’s very important to have an active, consumer-based organization like this. If we can get enough people, it will have an effect because politicians care about votes.

Since that vision was articulated, hundreds of thousands of cigar patrons have let their voices be heard through calls and petitions to congress opposing federal regulation of the industry, tens of thousands have publicly opposed state and local smoking bans and taxes, calls and visits to capitols and city hall hearings have been initiated, and a core of the premium handmade cigar industry have donated, dedicated time and resources, as market place competitors, have become allies in the cause of defending the simple passion of enjoying a cigar.

It’s an organization that is probably overdue,” Jose Oliva, the vice president of Oliva Cigar Co. told Cigar Aficionado in August 2011. “But it will be able to isolate the needs and concerns of the premium cigar industry. For the first time, the end user-the cigar smoker-will be able to be a part of a team when it comes time to participate and organize. The smoker never had this kind of mechanism. They are eager and worried about what is going to happen to the premium cigar industry. Now they can get involved.

Once the tour is over, we will continue to recruit people,” said Oliva. “We don’t need an army of activists; we just need people who are focused on the cause of enjoying premium cigars.

In August 2008, there was no staff, no resources, and no members – only a feeling that those that depend upon, love, and enjoy premium cigars, deserve to be heard.

That is a vision, which is as true today as it was ten years ago. CRA has grown into a fifty state membership, and our most challenging days lie ahead as we work to defend your ability to enjoy premium cigars.

For the next ten days, join or renew with Cigar Rights of America for an anniversary commemoration of $10. You’ll receive a commemorative cigar for your contribution, with all proceeds going toward the advocacy and litigation costs of defending you, the cigar patrons of America, your local community tobacconist, and the great producers of premium handmade cigars.