As happens this time each year, the entire cigar community descends upon one city for a week of cigar smoking and deal making at the annual industry trade show. For cigar enthusiasts, it is Christmas in August, as all the leading cigar makers unveil their latest blends for the thousands of cigar shop representatives in attendance.
This week that cloud of cigar smoke will be settling over New Orleans, which is hosting the annual International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers (IPCPR) Trade Show for the second straight year. Known for its good food, lively nightlife, and festive nature — even in the humidity of August — it’s no wonder that New Orleans is a regular destination for the IPCPR, along with Las Vegas (where the show will be returning for the next two years).
Now is a challenging time for the cigar industry which, contrary to the popular misconception that cigar companies are “Big Tobacco,” consists in large part of small businesses and family-owned boutique outfits. New taxes and smoking bans are being enacted in states and localities at a record pace.
New York State recently raised its tax rate on cigars to 75%, which comes on top of the 40-cent-per-cigar tax that President Obama signed into law as as part of the SCHIP program early in his administration. Meanwhile, cigar makers are bracing for new FDA regulations on cigars that are expected from the agency any day.
Despite new challenges from the government, premium handmade cigars are experiencing a renaissance when it comes to overall quality and variety. More than at perhaps any time in history, both large and small cigar companies are creating top-quality cigars with innovative blends that appeal to the tastes of aficionados and beginners alike.