Well, Tobaccogeddon arrived and stomped through like a bad storm. We are down, maybe on one knee, but we’re not out. Just taking the eight-count, as they say in the ring. There are several more rounds left.
Nothing will be the same again, true, but it is hard for me to believe that the tobacco community at large is going to wither away without a quiver of resistance. We all know this is madness and that our own federal government is doing its dead-level best to end the tobacco business.
We have history behind us. The nation was practically built on the sweet tobacco leaf as a crop. People clamored at home and across the globe and still do for a taste of Kentucky, North Carolina and Tennessee tobacco.
We have other credentials as well: pipe smokers of the past were members of exclusive clubs including the finest scientific minds in the world. Even U.S. presidents, philosophers, song-writers, Nobel Laureate authors, Oscar-winning screen actors, astronauts, clergy, singers, and on and on. I’m talking the top of the food chain when it comes to brain power.
Today, we are in a dark time, to be sure. There is no doubt that pipe smokers are on a fear-driven frenzied buying spree of favorite tobaccos racing to get ahead of a deadline in which some of the most wonderful blends in existence are threatened with the new FDA regulations. Anxiety is rampant in our community. And with good reason.
The FDA is out to destroy pipe tobacco and its manufacture. I see this as losing a battle, but not the war. Not yet. It isn’t over. And actually, this time in our history may turn out to be something of a windfall for tobacco manufacturers, since pipe smokers are buying blends like there is no tomorrow. And for some blends, there may be no more tomorrow. Just sayin’.
And despite the fact that the feds let loose the Tobacco Kraken (FDA), we are still standing. We haven’t capitulated and shipped home on our shield.
Regardless whether or not your cellar is stocked from floor to ceiling, you shouldn’t be overly concerned, either. The sky isn’t falling. We are experiencing some turbulence and just need to fasten our seat belts.
Here’s why I’m not a blubbering idiot over the regs. . . .at the moment. As I understand the FDA regulations, any blend created before Feb. 15, 2007, is supposed to be grandfathered in, am I right?
Those pre-drop dead date blends won’t be subject to the draconian, evil, job-killing, business-ruining rules and regulations of blends conceived after that date, if any survive at all.
Recently I performed a quick completely unscientific check on the old reliable TobaccoReviews.com website of a few of my favorite blends. I looked up one of my favs, and then clicked on the "oldest" review of that blend. If the date precedes 2007, I am guessing that if I understand the FDA’ outlandish rules for pipe tobacco, that blend will be saved from the trash heap of history.
For example, let’s consider McClelland’s Frog Morton, unquestionably a favorite by popular demand. The oldest review I find is 2001. To me, that means whoever the reviewer was either purchased the blend from a B&M or ordered it online in that year.
The date the review was published by TR.com does not mean that is a particular blend’s release date by the manufacturer, but it should give you an idea of when the blend was first available to the general pipe smoking public.
So, now, how about another of my old favorites, Rattray’s Old Gowrie? Reviewed on TR.com in 2002. I’m feeling pretty good at this point.
The year 2001 was a very good year for many of our favorite tobaccos. Frog Morton on the Town, Dark Star and Blackwoods Flake, three more favorites by McClelland, and the ever-popular Esoterica Tobacciana Stonehaven also reviewed in that year.
You can research your favorite blend on Tobaccoreviews.com and just look at the oldest review given on your blend. If it comes up pre-2007, you are (as far as we know) grandfathered in.
All this has worked to cause a great deal of panic and consternation within the pipe tobacco community. We, of course, hang on every word, every press release and re-release and re-working of the FDA rules.
I have decided to take a much calmer approach (those who know me will think this is a fabrication) to matters concerning pipes and tobacco.
The Dali Lama says in order to be healthy we need a happy mind. I am going happy with the happy mind approach.
If the worst happens, which appears it will unless the U.S. Congress steps in to put a muzzle and leg chains on the FDA, we are going to lose some of our more recent prized blends. No question about that.
But, I am trying to point out that we already have some extraordinary pipe tobacco blends pre-2007-drop-dead-date. Hopefully those blends will be around as long as there are pipe smokers.
Yes, some of the most talented pipe tobacco blenders in the world will be hamstrung to a certain extent until the tobacco manufacturers find a work-around.
But take a look at what will be available. Instead of the glass is half-empty, we have to see this thing as the tobacco jar is half-full.
Well, okay, maybe not that rosy. I’m not pleased either about losing some of the great tasting tobaccos that have emerged in the last few years.
Like you, I have been buying up what I know will be gone. But then I got to thinking about the old days when I was a youngster and I smoked Drug Store, or Codger blends. They really weren’t so bad.
I could do that again. Do I want to? Not all the time, no. But I could. Some of the old-time tobaccos are really pretty decent.
The FDA has jumped into the middle of our parade and done a nasty. My hope is that the big cigar and tobacco manufacturers take the FDA all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court on this.
If you have read your U.S. Constitution lately, you know there are three branches of government: executive, legislative, and judicial. The way our Constitution is set up, the executive and legislative are hard-wired not to get along.
That’s where the judicial branch comes in. They write all the laws that govern and set the other two branches straight. And try to keep them from each other’s throats.
So, what the executive and legislative branches created, the U.S. Supreme Court can fix, (or unfix) as the case may be. Let’s hope that it goes that far now that our case is in the courts, thanks to the cigar and tobacco manufacturers of this nation.
And another thing:
Like you, I have been watching online retailers unload an amazing amount of pipe tobacco lately. If you haven’t filled in your cellar, you can’t say you weren’t warned. Now is the time to get serious for the blends you cherish and want to have in the future.
It’s all very sad, really. From all appearances, it seems we are coming to the end of an era in pipe smoking. Life isn’t going to be all bad, but the sun is setting on the days of having some of the greatest tobacco blends in the world.
How did we get here? Why? I continually ask myself why the FDA is so hell-bent on destroying the tobacco world? Pipe smokers are a peaceful lot. We don’t want our children puffing anything before they are old enough (majority) to make that decision for themselves.
And I don’t appreciate anyone making that decision for me, either.
I very much like Sir Winston Churchill’s attitude toward life. He took it with a cigar and a drink now and then, which is what these times call for.
We need to open the pressure valve a bit. Let the steam out.
Here is what Sir Winston had to say about cigars and the evil drink: It is, he said, "An absolutely sacred rite, smoking cigars and also the drinking of alcohol before, after and if need be during all meals and in the intervals between them."
Of course, I am a bit prejudiced. You see, he was a journalist before he was a lord or premier or any of those very British things.
Now, let’s all light up a pipe or a cigar, grab a glass of elixir and puff blissfully away while we still have the finest tobacco blends ever created at our disposal.
"People don’t pay attention. And then one day there’s an accounting. And after that, nothing is the same."
― Cormac McCarthy, No Country For Old Men