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Austrian Anti-Smoking Zealots up in Arms about Arnold’s Unlit Stogie

I try to avoid jumping on the bandwagon and doing celebrity stories, but I can’t pass up an Arnold story (especially one that has nothing to do with Maria Shriver).

photo by Bob Doran

According to the Associated Press, Arnold Schwarzenegger was seen puffing on a cigar in an airport in Austria, and even though it was reported that the cigar was not lit, Austrian anti-smoking zealots plan to file a suit against him.

What sticks out to me about this story is that according to an airport spokesperson, the cigar was not lit. That’s right—Alexander Kraus, spokesperson for Salzburg Airport, said the following: “Burning cigars smoke and there were no puffs for Schwarzenegger.” So if the cigar wasn’t lit, and a guy who works for the airport acknowledges that it wasn’t lit, what the hell are these antismoking advocates going to sue him for?

That said, Arnold has had a two prior run-ins with Austrian smoking laws, according to an article in the Herald Sun; one at Graz and one at Salzburg. He was handed a 200 euro fine for each offense, but because the U.S. and Austria have no cooperation agreement for such offenses, he might be off the hook. Regardless, though, he wasn’t smoking this time.

Between appearing in Cigar Aficionado several times (including in an article entitled “Our Hero”), vetoing a handful expansions of California smoking bans, and building a badass smoking tent while serving as governor of California, Arnold has become something of a cigar icon. He also founded After School All Stars, a nonprofit organization that provides 81,000 kids in 12 different cities with after-school programs, so if you look past his overly-publicized marital problems, he seems like a pretty good guy.

And for that, I hope he gives himself the good guy discount and avoids paying these fines altogether. I also hope the suit gets thrown out, if it’s even filed in the first place, because why the hell should anyone get in trouble for having an unlit cigar in airport? Given the antismoking laws in the U.S. and other countries (like Bhutan), it’s not quite unbelievable, but it’s definitely still ridiculous.

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