On Wednesday, as you'll no doubt recall, Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway vowed to sweep every Black & Mild cigar off the shelves and into the ashtrays. Said he was preparing to launch a national campaign against the makers of the machine-made cigars, which Caraway says are "poisoning ... our community" and "killing families," especially when used to smoke pot. Thought it only fair to give the makers of the cigars -- John Middleton, owned by Altria Group -- a chance to respond.
David Sutton, Altria's spokesman, returned Unfair Park's call late yesterday and said he's aware of Caraway's concerns. He even suggests he's spoken with the council member and other city officials, though he declines to be more specific than, "We've talked with all the interested parties and look forward to talking to people interested in this issue."
That said, he wants to make Middleton's position quite clear: "We understand and share the concerns that have led to consideration of this proposed local legislation -- namely, the use of cigar products in connection with the use of illegal drugs. But John Middleton is committed to the responsible marketing of its products only to adult consumers for legal consumption."
This is not the first time John Middleton's found itself in a smoke-off with a city. Earlier this month, the manufacturer sued Prince George, Maryland, over legislation that bans the sale of single cigars. Said Middleton general manager Craig Schwartz, "We believe there are other more effective ways of advancing the general policy goals that motivated this law without penalizing adult cigar smokers who frequently purchase single cigars." Sutton reiterated the company's position to Unfair Park, also referring to the fight over Philadelphia's so-called "blunt ban" that would prevent the sale of single cigars.
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Sutton says the company "will continue to work with all interested parties to develop reasonable solutions to deal with this" issue. But when asked what those solutions might be, he says only that "it's premature at this point to be specific. In Dallas and in other places, it's just started to be discussed and looked at. We're sharing our perspective with all parties and stakeholders, but John Middleton is aware of it and concerned about it and wants to have that ongoing dialogue to develop reasonable solutions."