Sunday Links


My criticism of the CRA caught me some flak on Twitter yesterday. So with the encouragement of ChiefHava I decided to take the time to write about why I think the CRA has failed to date and why I will continue to support it while remaining vocal. I had the chance and sit with Glynn Loope and have a cigar with him at Cigar Inn on a quiet weeknight in NYC. I shared with him my thoughts and while his answer was “we are working on it”  nothing has materialized yet.

The fact is that Cigar Smokers cannot win this battle alone. We need to recruit the public to get behind our battle which is no easy task. During the recent battle in NY for a tax increase I saw on the news quotes from people stating, “I don’t smoke but enough is enough it’s not fair to tax someone this much”. Yet, I never saw a quote from the CRA on the news, in the papers or on the radio why?

Fact is only the hardest of the hardcore cigar smokers know what the CRA is. I hang out in cigar shops and mention the CRA and I get a look of bewilderment from many. The CRA needs to have brand recognition and until it does as a group our voices will not matter.

I work in the security industry and do private investigations. One of the people I worked for before becoming partners with someone worked for NYPD and his specialty was gangs. About 2-3 years ago there was a lot of gangs on the news and his publicist got him on various news programs such as Sean Hannity on Fox. This led to him being on various TV shows about gangs most noticeably the TV show Gangland where he is one of the experts offering information between footage.

Well every time that a call to action is needed around this country we need to get a representative of these on these news programs to offer up how these new taxes and regulations will hurt business. Glynn is an engaging person to speak to and he needs to rally more people into the group by getting out there in the public eye. The CRA also needs to get rid of the deadwood ambassadors. In Florida a friend never sees them at events. In New York City I only saw the local ambassador when he came to free load dinner at Club Macanudo with me and my friends.

What needs to change:

  • CRA needs a publicist and to get the name out there.
  • CRA needs to be in the public eye in the press and media outlets.
  • CRA needs a celebrity spokesperson much like the NRA had Heston
  • CRA needs better ambassadors that get the word out.
  • CRA needs better management (7 out of my 10 emails/messages go unanswered)

With this said and done I will still continue to be a member of the CRA because the concept is there, just needs to be taken to the next level.

The Sunday Links:

  • Chief Hava has his mid-year nominees for Cigar of the Year 2010.
  • Casas Fumando reviews the Avo LE 10.
  • Smoking Stogie gives us a sneak peak at the Pinal Del Rio BOTL Small Batch.
  • Stogie Review tell us the Rocky Patel Edge Sumatra is back and Brian compares old vs new.

Til next time!

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  • dmjones1009

    I agree that getting CRA reps on Fox News (the most watched cable news channel, no matter what a person’s opinion of them is) would be a great thing. It would help a lot to have a familiar, friendly face on there that people would get to know over repeated appearance…someone who could strongly persuade without being overbearing.

  • Gary J. Arzt

    An interesting comment, Barry. The thing I surely agree with is that CRA is not yet what it must be.

    When I have more time, I think I will go into more detail, as I disagree with your assessment in many respects.


  • Tim D.

    We were just talking about this last night at the B&M. I agree that I’m not seeing much out of CRA and decided against renewing my membership. I emailed Brian Berman and asked “what are some issues that CRA is currently active with?” After 3 weeks of asking him for a response and not getting any information other than “we’ll reply soon” and “I forwarded your email to Glynn Loope” I gave up. I really like the concept of CRA, as I’m sure all BOTL do, but I don’t see much at all from the execution.

  • barry


    as you know I value your opinion…. so I look forward to your take.

  • Doug Maull

    I for one can tell you that our ambassador for the Philadelphia area is doing a fantastic job. Alan Price is always at B&M functions stirring up support for CRA. When last I had spoken with him, he had recruited over 100 new members for CRA in the span of about a month between March and April. I think that is pretty significant. In my opinion, you can’t put all of the blame for the tobacco taxes making their way through legislatures to CRA’s lack of action, lack of having a celebrity spokesperson or lack of being in the general public’s eye. I personally blame all of the liberal liberty stealing legislators and voters out there who are trampling on our rights. Couple that with all of the apathetic go as the wind blows voters out there and it’s no wonder our favorite pastime is being taxed into oblivion! My view of CRA is that it is working behind the scenes because your average everyday Joe could care less about cigar smokers. Nothing will make him feel sorry for us.

  • barry


    premiim cigars is 1% of the tobacco market. we need to get others involved.
    when I was at cigar expo I saw rocky patel and jose blanco working the phones against the pennsylvania tax.

    I’m sure there are people who really push the issues. 100 is 3500 just for the philly area when you factor in other states where is this money being utilized. now I’m curious.

    I’m not saying the cra is taking our money but with numbers like that how come we dont have a publicist getting the group “face time”. im sure there must be someone in the field who smokes cigars that would do it at a discounted rate

  • tx_tuff

    Come to think of it I have only seen a CRA ambassador at a event here once and thats because they where part of the event I guess. I see some people tweet about CRA, I see some members in cigar forum have CRA stuff in their signature. Other then that I really hear nothing about them. I guess they are in CA ever once in awhile or something like that but until you see them on reg news shows people just want know about them. There are many locals at B&Ms in town here and they don’t use the internet cigar wise at all or read any cigar mags.

  • Tom Ufer

    According to the CRA website there are five CRA Ambassadors in the Tampa Bay area. Out of those five, I have met two of them at events. I met one only because he owns the shop of an event I attended. The remaining Ambassador is very active and I see him at just about every Tampa cigar shop event. The representation across the bay in Pinellas County seems much weaker.

    Searching through Twitter and Facebook, I only see the same active Tampa CRA Ambassador using social media to try and further the cause. Perhaps CRA should give their Ambassadors some guidance in using these tools to their advantage.

  • Gary Korb

    Barry, I am basically in agreement with you. Doug in Philly made a good point about working more behind the scenes. I really don’t care how the job gets done, as long as it gets done, but I think the crux of it merges both arguments: You wrote: …”only the hardest of the hardcore cigar smokers know what the CRA is. I hang out in cigar shops and mention the CRA and I get a look of bewilderment from many.”

    And that’s just it. There are too many cigar smokers that are not hardcore, and so they have no vested interest. Maybe they’ll pay another $1 or $2 a cigar becuase they only smoke once or twice a week.

    Find a way to get those guys involved, and now you don’t just have a platoon, you’ve got a battalion.

  • Tom

    I tend to agree with Barry. CRA needs to be a household name, much like the NRA. For the time being, I have seen no CRA activity in the Pinellas County, FL area. No one knows what it is, except a few of those who are Internet savvy. But your typical old school smoker has never heard the name.

    There is no visibility for the CRA, and I am not convinced on how much they are helping. This is why I will not join until I start seeing actual results. I’m not trying to slam them, but I’m not forking over my money for an organization that I’m not sold on yet.

  • Glynn Loope

    Gee, where do I begin? In these times,there is no such thing as too much dialogue about how to advance our cause. Let me just highlight some major points. First, CRA was launched in late 2008, and we didn’t have a staff effort with Brian and I until mid-December 2008, and really getting “off the ground” in January 2009. By any standard, this is a young effort. Since then, this has grown from a five city tour, to a 50 state membership base. That’s coupled with retail tobacconist members in 47 states, beginning with zero in March 2009. Year-to-year, membership is up 98%. Over the last 19 months, we have involved CRA and its membership in 16 smoking ban battles; 10 tax battles; and nearly a dozen public policy issues affecting cigars. In that time (and it was a team effort) smoking ban legislation has been defeated in Alabama, Louisiana, Indiana, Texas, and tax proposals impacting cigars were defeated in Florida, Kansas, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts. In each of these, CRA members expressed themselves to elected officials, as we attempted to organize them for the first time in this industry’s history. In addition to these matters, we are consumed with monitoring and planning for the FDA regulation of cigars. During the public comment period that will occur after regulations are posted, CRA’s membership will be (again) more critical than ever. We are deeply engaged in that process in Washington, as there is no greater threat to this passion we share from the retail, manufacturer, or consumer perspective. CRA’s membership responded to that call from October – December of 2009 with the first FDA call for comments on general tobacco regulation, and now, they will be needed again, specifically on cigars and how the federal government wants to control them.
    Now to some of the points made above: We have been engaged in the NY tax issue, from day one. We helped organize the New York Tobacconist’s Association; have been on every conference call; lobbied in Albany; addressed a NY press conference of retailers (yes, in front of Fox Business News), worked on strategy with industry lobbyists; as this battle was literally a daily part of life since early Spring. This is in addition to the NYC flavor tobacco ban, warning posting regulation, and now Buffalo, NY local tobacco regulatory program…each of which are far from over.
    This, while we communicate with 11 other state cigar/tobacconist associations across the nation, while working to establish 11 more in short order.
    I believe your comment on getting “the public” behind us to win, is a bit politcally naive. “The public” is a vast collection of the electorate, and if given a choice, they will say “sure, tax cigars (tobacco) instead of me, any day.” I could elaborate on that, but the bottom line on that point is “we” are not viewed as an “oppressed minority,” and will not be. We CAN, however, cut political deals based upon economics [adverse economic impact], property rights, as well as playing the political game, as never before, i.e., building a cigar constituency in every legislative district that can act as a block to sway elections, and working local governments, state capitols, and Washington on a consistent basis for the cause, and not just when there is a crises.
    I agree with your suggestion about “a publicist.” When funds allow, we would welcome that opportunity and usher in that strategy. There is, indeed, a story to tell, and I believe we can find some sympathetic media outlets.
    As for the “deadwood ambassadors,” this is a growing initiative of volunteers, and your comments are quite misplaced. We have some folks, like Alan Price that was mentioned, coupled with others like him, without which we could not get through dozens of events in the last year. Training and communication can always come into play, but remember these people volunteer. That “bewildered look” you receive from some regarding CRA is simply based upon the ability to reach, personally or electronically, everyone that needs to be. We would love to personally work a given state a week, introduce ourselves and our programs, and spread the word from on high; but there are limitations, though in time, the word will (and has) traveled. It’s a process. There is also a level of apathy in all ranks that needs to change.
    The list of programs we’ve created in 19 months is long, and distinguished: Smoke the Vote 2010, Membership Discount Program, Political Mapping, National Cigar Events Schedule, Members Cigar Sampler, Great American Cigar Shop, News Alerts, etc., etc. – all with a staff of two.
    As for a celebrity spokesman, some good things are in the works for that; As for the request on issues we’re working on, please see above, and I also believe our regular news alerts speak well for the issues we address on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. The news alerts section of our web site provides a comprehensive list of issues and locations where are and have been involved.
    Barry, I think “failure” is a strong word, and in this case, is clearly wrong. Is it (CRA) a work in progress? Absolutely. Is the cigar industry 30 years behind in preparing for this moment in political history? Absolutely. Can we work together to reverse many of these trends and policy measures? Absolutely. This is but a snap shot, and I would be glad to answer questions. Folks can email me at, or call me. My office line is 540-977-0106. Yes, we’ll answer the email…but have some patience. It’s a big country.

  • Jerry @ Stogie Review

    Barry – Thanks for taking the time to write the above piece. In all honesty, I disagree with your general stance. Maybe at IPCPR some of us can get together and talk about this more.

  • barry


    look forward to discussing this futher at ipcpr and perhaps we can do a video interview and discuss me being an ambassador.

  • Glynn Loope

    I would welcome that opportunity at IPCPR, and your future role as an ambassador.

  • Gary J. Arzt

    To the gentlemen that made mention of NRA, it took them more than 200 years to become a “household name.” Just as it took them 100 years to gain two million members.

    One can find fault with the American Cancer Society – very little of the money they solicit reaches the bottom line; yet people give to anyone who rattles a can, with ACS on it, in front of their faces.

    Much more must be done, including the industry, not you and I, organizing a national PAC and state PACs to fight taxes and bans.

    But, nothing will be accomplished by waiting! You’ll wind up smoking like criminals in your basement with the lights out.

    And, while no one ever admits it, a lot of your negativity is about paying an insignificant $35.00 – 67 cents a week.

  • barry

    gary its very sad if people dobt join because of the cost. with the 2 cigars in some states the cost is a wash.

  • Barry

    Im glad we all felt passionate to respond to this message, but I think we will agree to disagree. I really think that cigar smokers are such a minority in the tobacco world that we need to reach out to others in our fight.

    Just like people who arent gun owners support the right to bear arms, we must be able to tap into the those who support our freedom to smoke.

    Tobacco has been a part of america since Columbus smoked with the indians and we need to hold on to our ability to do so.

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  • WhamIAmTheMan

    now, if we could only get the lovely (and talented) Kardashian sisters to champion our cause……. every anti-smoking law would be repealed…. within the year………….

  • thetobaccophile

    I think an additional problem is perception. The NRA has taken a lot of heat lately for making compromises without explanation to gun owners. In this case, is doesn’t really matter how much CRA is doing, if there is a perception that they aren’t doing much. I’ll be sending my dues in soon, because the CRA is the only real game in town. However, I think Barry is right in saying that more, and more publicly, needs to be done.

  • Lindsay

    Despite having severed the relationship with the NYC Chapter President/Ambassador of the CRA for personal reasons, he did not come to that dinner under the auspice of the CRA, but as a person getting together with fellow cigar smokers. He has also been at the Big Smoke and manned a table at events at both De La Concha and Cigar Inn over the last two years.

  • Barry


    Personally I have never seen him at Cigar Inn. Ive been to one event at De La Concha so I can’t speak for him. But his actions have left a bad taste in my mouth on various levels. But I do not think he does enough for the CRA even if it is a volunteer position.


  • JoshK

    First let me say that I am a CRA member and agree with Barry that in some state (like NY when the new tax goes in) the cost of membership is well made up for by the 2 free cigars. I can’t see cost as a reason for people not joining.

    I am not an everyday smoker, but I try to travel around to different local shops as often as I can. Usually I don’t see any CRA poster/pamphlets in about 3/4 of them.

    It is hugely important to get the word out to everyone, not just cigar smokers. The local senior’s bridge club has more voters than the local cigar lounge.

    I also worry that a cigar-only organization might strugle resonating with the public. Although I realize that cigar smokers want to seperate themselves from other tobacco smokers as most cancer research / bad press is geered torwards cigerettes but it also makes us seem elitus. Joining forces with other tobacco support groups (are there any?) may be worth-wile.

  • CigarsThomas


    As I mentioned on twitter, I don’t agree with your points above but I tip my hat to you for being a truthful blogger. Blogging is about writing your own opinion and not the popular opinion. Forget what everyone’s opinion is, if that is your opinion then so be it! Make sure that your opinion is validated by knowledgeable facts as I’m sure you know!

  • dmjones1009

    After reading all the commentary and responses above, I felt the need to chime in again. Even if Glynn and Gary are right about the efforts CRA has been making, you have succeeded in getting some much-needed conversation going. Sometimes the best way to get these things in front of people is to get hot under the collar and create some controversy. Perhaps this will result in more people joining the organization and taking up the cause and that can only be a good thing.

  • Alan

    I joined CRA at the 2009 Big Smoke in Vegas after having a long talk with Glynn about the importance of CRA. In March of this year I signed up as an ambassador because I don’t want my rights taken away as a smoker and I don’t want the local B & M’s to suffer without the support of a national organization. To date, I have signed up over 300 CRA members with most of them joining as multiple year members. I have been to over 25 B & M events (thank goodness my wife & kids are understanding) and I truely believe that I am making a difference. I have a wonderful time by going to these events and the members that I sign up, see my passion & thne join the cause. I can only see CRA getting bigger and stronger as more members and ambassadors get the bug like I did. I think that Glynn and Brian are doing a Herculean effort by running an organization like this and I thank them from the bottom of my heart!

  • Barry

    Alan -

    Obviously you don’t fit the bill of the comments in regardless to ambasassadors I mentioned.

  • Tom

    Great topic and I like the opposing views. I will keep an eye on the CRA given the different points of view posted here. Thanks Barry for stirring the pot.

  • Chief Hava

    Not sure there is anything I could add to that Glynn.

    Spot on and I hope it has been heard.

    Perhaps the issue is that someone as engaged and passionate as Barry did not know these things.

    It might highlight an opportunity to improve the way these achievements are communicated on the site or are otherwise communicated to your constituents and members.


  • Stephen Boyajian

    In the grand scheme, the CRA is still very young. Notoriety does not happen overnight, however the voice will get stronger and stronger, that I am sure.

    I actually like posts like this as it causes and forces people to discuss it. I think perhaps when you are met with the bewildered look from people at the B&M, that may be a good time to try to get them involved. Even if they choose not to become CRA members, at least encourage them to join the fight however they can.

    Cigar Rights of America will continue to have the full support and backing of

  • Matthias Clock

    Barry, Glynn, et all,

    I appreciate this conversation, and have a bit to add.

    First is on the mention of the NRA. I think that we need to be careful to understand what gives the NRA so much of its power – the Second Amendment. Fine tobacco lovers do not have a similar, overt statement of federal support from the Constitution. Nor are cigar smokers normally dealing with the same legislative issues. The NRA often deals with a complete ban on handguns, rifles, assault rifles (DC, Chicago, Detroit, etc). Cigar smokers have rarely had to deal with total bans, except in a few removed cases (like down in Florida). Cigar smokers deal with marginal tax increases, which make it harder to be noticed. Harder to get the kind of reporting that the NRA gets.

    That is not to say that the CRA cannot be as successful as the NRA, just that both movements are going to need to operate in different ways if they face different challenges. I agree with Glynn that as a small minority, we as tobacco smokers are going to be subject to the norms of democracy: the many taking from the few. However, I fundamentally disagree with Glynn’s assertion that appealing to the public for support is ‘naïve’.

    It may be difficult and take a long time, but it may be turn out to be one of our last options.

    Unlike the NRA, we do not have an overt constitutional support for the ‘right to keep and smoke fine tobacco’. Nor is the argument from property rights that Glynn mentioned particularly convincing to many politicians. Let’s face it – if politicians are willing to continue to soak money from us for frivolous projects, what reason have they given us to believe that they will be moved by principled arguments from John Locke and the Enlightenment?

    The fact is, we are playing a very difficult game. We have the unfortunate pleasure of having to deal with one of the worst stigmas attached to any interest group in the United States, and we have a small voice with which to punish politicians who abuse us.

    But our voice does not have to remain small. Since I started smoking cigars two years ago, I’ve turned about 25 of my friends into cigar lovers. I’ve taught them the differences between fine tobacco and that other garbage, and they have become more vocal in support of fine tobacco rights as a result.

    So, we know the challenges that we face – they stare us in the face every day when we buy cigars, or get disapproving glances from those who see us. But what we have going for us is an airtight case – real arguments. Truth. And people are convinced by that when individuals associate with one another and make their case heard. It will take work. It will be frustrating. Our success is not guaranteed – but we’ve got a pretty damn good shot if we understand what makes us unique as an interest group and know our case well.

    So, I appreciate what the CRA is doing, and agree with both Glynn and Barry. We need the CRA – it is doing good work. We also need wider public support and exposure, and that is going to take a lot more good work.

    Matthias Clock

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