Law Threatens to Close 75% of Philly Cigar Shops

Dec 2004
Anti-tobacco legislation has posed yet another huge threat on our right to purchase and enjoy premium, handmade cigars. Currently, twenty-two states have already banned cigars in bars and certain restaurants in addition to putting various tobacco-related companies out of business. As of Tuesday, January 23, one more state is slated for the “non-smoking” section: Pennsylvania.

In an attempt to provide the residents of Pennsylvania with affordable health care, Governor Ed Rendell has implemented a new plan called “Prescription for Pennsylvania.” This new plan can and will result in two things: significantly raising the tax on tobacco products, including the first ever tax on cigars, and a statewide cigar ban.

In addition to “Prescription for Pennsylvania,” a cigar ban has already been implemented in the city of Philadelphia:

Yesterday, January 23, the mayor of Philadelphia signed into law an ordinance which in effect imposes an almost absolute ban on cigar sales in the city, effective immediately – although there is no indication when it will begin to be enforced. The measure will be challenged in court by the CAA, Atladis USA, Swisher International, John Middleton, Black Cat Cigar Company, Holt’s Cigar Company and the Pennsylvania Distributors Association.

Now defined as “drug paraphernalia”, sales of the following products are banned: cigars sold singly, flavored cigars known as “blunts”, unflavored “blunts”, flavored and unflavored blunt wraps, cigarette rolling papers, cigarillos, and tiparillos. The ordinance does not define “blunt”, which as you know is a long-recognized shape of cigar.

In effect, the new ordinance imposes an irrational and nearly absolute ban on the sale of cigars in Philadelphia. While the stated purpose is to combat drug use in the city and curb the sale of tobacco products to minors, the ordinance does the following:

• bans the sale of “flavored” cigars by any establishment anywhere in the city, even though it never defines the term “flavored”

• bans the sale of cigars within 500 feet of any “school, recreation center, day care center, church or community center”. This in essence bans cigar sales in more than 75% of specialty tobacco stores in the city and eliminates cigar sales in almost 75% of the general retail stores that are permitted to sell cigars

• bans the sale of one or two cigars by any retail business except that hotels, certain restaurants and specialty tobacco shops are allowed to sell individual cigars in “small quantities” – a term which is not defined.

We believe the ordinance is void on several grounds including preemption by multiple state laws for it impermissibly conflicts with the Pennsylvania Drug Paraphernalia Act, and is expressly preempted by state laws regarding the sale of tobacco products to minors. At this time, the lawsuit and a motion for preliminary injunction is expected to be filed early next week. In the meantime, we understand that the Wawa chain had already pulled product from their shelves in anticipation of the mayor signing the ordinance.

As the days pass, more and more individuals are being stripped of their freedom to enjoy a fine cigar. Additionally, more establishments are being stripped of their right to cater us as a cigar enthusiast. These movements are an unconstitutional fringe on our rights as American citizens. The inevitable movement towards a smoke-free country has now hit close to home for Pennsylvania residents. An idea that will soon become a reality, unless we act together and stand up for our rights and God-given freedoms.
Apr 2005
Machias Maine
I have said it before the slope is covered with grease and we my friends are sliding towards the bottom ever faster. I am rooting for you people in PA and hope this stupid law is repealed.
Apr 2006
South Jersey
You get in touch with me man!!! We will go to Holt's and Mahogany's, they are going nowhere bro!
Dec 2004
Some of the local retailers got a temporary injunction pending the results of a law suit. Will keep everyone posted.