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Weekend Roundup – Alexandria Butting Out, NJ Cashing In, More Legal Travel to Cuba, and Padrón Family Reserve No. 85

It’s been a fairly eventful past couple of days in the cigar world. Believe it or not, there were actually more stories for this week’s roundup than I knew what to do with—that almost never happens. But I made some tough choices and trimmed the fat to save you the trouble of finding the four best, so without further ado, here’s your weekend roundup!

First off, we have some bad news from the city of Alexandria, Louisiana. Last week, the city’s council expanded their smoking ban to include bars, effective January 2, 2012. That means city residents can light up and celebrate on New Year’s Day, but after that, nobody will be lighting up in an Alexandria bar, probably for a long time. As expected, the always-diligent International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers Association had something to say about the ban, claiming that the council was put under pressure by two well-funded anti-smoking groups (referred to as “anti-smoking extremists” in the press release). “The city’s expanded smoking ban will negatively impact bars, taverns and other small businesses. This is no time to put such establishments at risk as well as the jobs and tax revenues they provide,” said Bill Spann, CEO of the IPCPR. “We are against legislated smoking bans that come from Big Brother and the nanny state. Instead, we favor and uphold the rights of property owners to decide for themselves the smoking policies for their respective businesses.”

Anyway, needless to say, if you’re a smoker living in or around Alexandria, LA, you owe it to yourself to contact your legislators and/or visit Cigar Rights of America’s website to find out how to take action against this ban.

Next up, we’ve got a story from Sidelines, the online newspaper for Middle Tennessee State University. According to the story, MTU plans to offer a 3-week study abroad program to Cuba in the summer of 2012, making it one of the first universities in the U.S. to do so. Dr. Ric Morris, program director and professor of Spanish and Linguistics, seeks to use the program to dispel some of the misconceptions of the neighboring island nation. “When you say Cuba, Americans tend to think of Fidel Castro and cigars. Never mind that Fidel is no longer president or that he hasn’t smoked a cigar in 30 years.” Regardless of Fidel’s smoking habits or lack thereof, hopefully students on this trip will have the opportunity to sneak off and enjoy a couple of Habanos, whether or not any members of the Castro family will be joining them. And kudos to MTU for offering such a unique opportunity to their students! Can we tag along?

Next, we’ve got some not-so-great news from the Garden State. According to a story on NACSOnline.com, the state of New Jersey is considering raising taxes on “other” tobacco products, which, as you could probably guess, includes cigars. “We are lagging, as are many other states, with the other types of tobacco products,” said Karen Blumenfeld, executive director of Global Advisers on Smokefree Policy and my new least favorite New Jersey resident. “The industry has caught on to the fact that there’s this loophole with regard to other smoked tobacco products, and they’re cheaper.”

Maybe, Karen Blumenfeld, it’s because there’s an immeasurable difference between a machine-made bunch of chopped up, mangled tobacco, paper, and fiberglass and a handmade, all-leaf, agricultural product. But, I digress.

Some sensible New Jersey residents have seen what happens with other high-tax states and are recommending against a tax hike on other tobacco products. They recognize that when a state’s tobacco taxes increase, the logical next step for consumers is to get their tobacco from other states with lower taxes. “Going to roll-your-own is an economic move, not because you got tired of what your Marlboro tastes like,” said Bob Tyjewski, manager of a local New Jersey smoke shop. “It’s a matter of nickels and dimes.” Anyway, New Jersey residents, contact your legislators and tell them not to be manipulated by misguided anti-smoking zealots!

Finally, we have some good news from the ever-impressive blenders at Padrón. According to a story posted by Cigar Aficionado, the first batch of Padrón Family Reserve No. 85 shipped out today, which means we will soon have these available for sale. Unlike the previous releases, which were named for the 44th, 45th, and 46th anniversaries of the founding of the company, the No. 85 commemorates company founder José Orlando Padrón’s 85th birthday. The cigars will measure 5 ¼ inches by 50 ring gauge, will be available in either natural or maduro wrappers, and, if the No. 85 follows the same pattern of the last three releases, the tobaccos in the cigars will be aged for a whopping 10 years. Anyway, keep an eye out for these, and in the meantime, we’re still carrying the 44th, 45th, and 46th Anniversary releases. I’ll be sure to post a follow-up once we get the No 85s in.

And that’s it for this week’s roundup. If you think I’ve missed anything, feel free to post it in a comment below, and don’t forget to vote for our next cigar review by posting a comment here or on our Facebook page!