I’ve never been much of a cigarette smoker, but I will completely forget about everything I was supposed to accomplish on my day off just to sit, puff, and enjoy a good cigar. It’s not just the smell and taste that I admire, but the ritual of choosing, cutting, and torching a stogie is also intoxicating. In southwest Fort Worth is my place, Paladin Cigars.
Located on the corner of Hulen Street and Granbury Road and surrounded by fast food joints and apartment complexes, Paladin has an excellent selection of stogies, and its old-fashioned interior design and black-tinted windows make it easy to lose track of time and get lost in a good smoke. I know this, and so does my wife, who has to text me, “Where the hell are you?” messages after my “quick smoke” turns into a three-hour holiday of smoking and boozing. (It’s also B.Y.O.B.)
The shop is owned and run by the Bowyer family. Husband and wife Bruce and Diane Bowyer are the original investors and currently spend about half of the year in the Dominican Republic working hands-on with local tobacco growers. Meanwhile, their sons Matthew and Aaron run the day-to-day operations. The family moved to Fort Worth from Reno to open the shop after a friend told them the people here are “kind and friendly,” Matthew said.
Unfortunately, there’s something that has Paladin, other cigar shops, and tobacco growers worried. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which is responsible for regulating drugs, health devices, food, cosmetics, tobacco, and more, announced last year that it is extending its authority to all tobacco products, including cigars and e-cigarettes. That extended reach could affect many local shops and smaller tobacco growers from countries such as the Dominican Republic, where Paladin receives a majority of its product. Younger brother Aaron says the new rules set to take effect in 2018 could potentially hurt smaller cigar shops and come with restrictions that will economically hurt smaller exporters and their selection of cigars.
“Bigger companies have millions of dollars to throw at the problem, but the smaller companies could be tanked,” Aaron said. “You wouldn’t see diversity anymore – and the quality might slip a little bit. It’s like only being able to buy Miller Lite, and all the craft beers that I love weren’t out there anymore. That would be really sad.”
These new restrictions placed by the FDA on importers require shops to pay user fees, submit ingredient lists to the FDA, and include additional risk information for all their products. This not only affects the imports that shops depend on, but it hurts the uniqueness of their brands. This also puts their product in the same boat as cigarettes, which Matthew says is unjustified, since stogies are a source of relaxation, as opposed to the addictive and obsessive attributes that come with cigarette smoking.
“Unlike smoking a cigarette, where most people run outside to get a quick puff in, this is about relaxation and enjoyment.” Matthew said. “It’s about achieving a small state of nirvana in a crazy world.”
The worst part about the coming FDA changes is that the primary reason for adding the new regulations is to prevent youth from smoking cigars, according to the organization’s website. Something Marvin R. Shanken, editor and publisher at Cigar Aficionado magazine, says just isn’t a real issue, according to research.
“This significant study reinforces what we have known all along — children do not smoke premium cigars,” Shanken said. “It always helps to have it confirmed by objective, third-party sources. Handmade cigars are a legal product made for and enjoyed by an adult audience.”
But I won’t allow these new regulations to ruin one of my most favorite pastimes. For me, there’s no better way to get away from the everyday hustle and bustle of life than to sit back, relax, and share a stogie with a few good friends.