But not the one you might think. Certainly, not the ones that Leg-Iron and Dick Puddlcote, among others, have identified:
When a statue of Isambard Kingdom Brunel was unveiled at the London college bearing his name three years ago, some commented on the absence of the cigar that Brunel was rarely seen without. (He got through 40 a day.) The worry was, apparently, that Brunel's vile habit had fallen victim to the disapproval of drinking, smoking, violence and gambling in public spaces.And it’d be a valid concern. It’s happened, after all, to other historical figures.
Brunel University and the sculptor both denied this. It was a matter of aesthetics, they said.And like the excuses proffered in the Churchill furore, it rang just as hollow…
But news comes of a much greater threat to the cigar industry than moralisers – a threat so grave it leads one to question whether a stogie would even be available to a late 21st century or 22nd century Brunel. Cuban cigar exports have dropped by two thirds in three years, according to a report this morning, falling victim to a combination of the recession, a drop in airline passenger numbers (a quarter of sales are in duty free), and the smoking bans that have already driven puffers out of taxi cabs, offices and restaurants – and perhaps soon will shoo the huddled masses from the doorways, awnings, public parks and private vehicles in which they are now forced to take a pleasure known to mankind for centuries.Which, you’ll be surprised to find, isn’t viewed with pleasure by this Guardianista.
This is a tragedy...Indeed! But why?
… more than that, it is pretty serious for Cubans, who have 70% of the world market in cigars. Stubbing out this source of revenue would be a heavy blow for an economy that is already in a critical condition and which has long laboured under an American embargo imposed when the cold war was at its chilliest but which makes no sense today.Ah. Right. It’s a tragedy because it’s hurting a socialist paradise.
Sod all the poor smokers, eh, Sholto?
So there are two options available to those concerned about the plight of Cubans in these hard times. One is to write to Barack Obama urging him to end the embargo…And the other is to repeal the smoking ban, right?
The other – and I realise this would be an unpalatable choice for many – would be to support the Cuban economy by following the example of Brunel and taking up cigars…So….what?
You’re calling on people to sit outdoors, huddle in doorways, be treated like pariahs by the Righteous and also pay more for that privilege…?
All so that Castro’s little gulag-on-the-high-seas doesn’t get unduly affected?