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April 01, 1999 - Image 9

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1999-04-01

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16B OThe Michigan Daily - kend, etc. Magazine -Thu$ay, April 1,1999

Cigar smoking remains high-browed way to unwind

By Elena Upson
Dafly Arts Writer
Sylvester Stallone is doing it. So is
Madonna. Even President Clinton has
found creative uses for it. And this is not
about sex. Rather, it's one of the latest
trends to sweep the nation: Cigars.
Even Ann Arbor has been influenced
by the cigar craze. It is no coincidence
that La Mirage, a tobacco shop located on
East Liberty Street, opened nearly two
and half years ago -just as the likes of
+- Pierce Brosnan and Claudia Schiffer were
seen sporting cigars on the covers of the
popular magazine Cigar Aficionado.
Yet even though cigars seem to be quite
the rage, almost any cigar smoker will tell
you that they aren't meant for everyday
use. Most true cigar connoisseurs would
scorn anyone who smoked cigars as fre-
quently and carelessly as regular cigarette
smokers smoked cigarettes.
Elizabeth Royce, an Ann Arbor resi-
dent whose father regularly smokes cig-
ars, explained, "It's a treat ... You pick a
place or a good friend ... some brandy.

It's an event. It's ultimate relaxation."
La Mirage owner Ali ElSaghir agreed,
"You can't smoke anytime. You need a
special moment."
ElSaghir added there is much more to
cigars than simply smoke. He even com-
pared smoking cigars to art because cig-
ars are connected to the "personality" of
the smoker, much how an artist's work is
a reflection of himself.
Interestingly, ElSaghir has noticed that
people's personality traits often dictate
their cigar preferences. For instance, he
recommends a light or medium cigar to
someone who is easy-going and funny
since these cigars are usually just for fun.
For more serious, ill-tempered folk,
ElSaghir believes a long, harsh cigar is
their best bet.
Not only can cigars characterize the
people smoking them, but they can also
foster a rich, diverse culture. Often, the
mere act of purchasing a cigar can be an
enriching experience. Many employees
form close personal relationships with
their customers, or at the very least, con-

verse with them in the same way a bar-
tender chats with his regular patrons.
ElSaghir said he has so many regular
customers "that it's almost becoming a
club" and "is based on personal relations."
He explained that most conversations
he has with customers have very little to
do with cigars. His tobacco store is a
place where people can talk about any-
thing from politics to the economy. He
especially enjoys the way cigars can unite
an eclectic group of people. Although
people may have their disagreements in
real life, ElSaghir believes "cigars bring a
lot of people together."
Despite the diverse types that gather to
smoke, cigar smoking is geared toward an
affluent crowd. ElSaghir admitted, "Who
can afford it is the big question." He con-
cedes that people who are less well-off
obviously cannot afford to pay four, five
or $10 for a single cigar on a regular
basis. As a result, the upper classes have
become the main market for cigars.
Since the cigar industry thrives in an
affluent community, it is largely depen-
dent on the state of the economy. When
the economy is booming, people have
more money to spend on luxuries like
cigars, ElSaghir said. He speculated that
the economic prosperity of the '90s may
indeed be related to the recent cigar trend.
He also attributed cigar's growing pop-
ularity to America's infatuation with the
glamour of past decades. He has noticed
that many times people tote a cigar sim-
ply because it goes with their outfit.
LSA sophomore Justin Betrock admits
he smoke cigars when he "gets dressed
up," though he is quick to add that he also

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LSA senior C.J. Carnacchio looks for the perfect cigar at the Mason Edwards
Tobacconist shop in Nichols arcade.

smokes during "joyous occasions" or
when he is "hanging with the guys."
But some people, like Mt. Pleasant res-
ident and La Mirage patron Stacey Saul,
are disgusted with Betrock's breed. She
complained, "The trend turns me off.
Seeing young men, thinking they're cool"
Perhaps, then, Saul can appreciate a
warning from an employee at Maison

l i i
I1 II1


Edwards Tobacconist in the Nichols
Arcade, who asked to remain nameless,
that the cigar trend is dying down. The
employee said "people are in love with
fads. Our generation has a short attention
span" He believes that tastes are too tran-
sient for the trend to last much longer.
But Betrock said he thinks more peo-
ple are smoking cigars because they carry
few immediate health risks.
In reality, Betrock has bought into a
popular myth. According to the American
Cancer Society and American Lung
Association, cigar smoke is just as harm-
ful as cigarette smoke and contains even
more tar and nicotine. Also, nicotine does
not need to be inhaled to cause damage to
the heart and blood vessels.
But health risks don't bother the
Maison Employee. "I don't give into these
health fanatics. I believe in individual
choice ... There is too much obsession on
quantity of life, not enough on quality."

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