Bull-SCHIP? You’d have to be living under a rock these days not to know about the federal legislation that affects what you pay for cigars that took effect on April 1, but just in case you’ve been focused on other things, here’s the skinny on what went down and how it affects you and every tobacco user in the United States. The acronym stands for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, which is about providing medical care to kids and that’s a good thing. The bill actually expands existing legislation and coverage to 11 million low-income children by levying higher taxes on tobacco products, and you’ll want to think kindly of it and remember that the money does go to a good cause because, well, you don’t really have a choice besides giving up cigars and any other form of tobacco you might use. It’s the largest federal tobacco tax increase in U.S. history, but how much is the actual hit? On “large cigars,” the government’s term for the kind of cigars we’re all about here, the tax more than doubled, going from 20.8 percent of the manufacturer’s price to 52.8 percent of the manufacturer’s price. But it cuts deeper than this. The previous tax rate was also capped at 4.9 cents per cigar. The cap is now set at 40.26 cents per cigar. Things could be worse, though—the original version of the legislation called for a $10 cap, and earlier versions had set the cap at $3. The legislation also calls for retailers to pay something called a floor stocks tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products that they had in inventory when the bill took effect. If your favorite tobacconist ran big sales up to April 1, this was a big reason why. Large cigars, however, are exempt from the tax. How will the new tax affect you, other than the hit on your pocket? You might see, or have already seen, some retailers close up shop, believing that they won’t be able to sell enough products to keep their doors open. One cigar manufacturer, Bill Finck, stated that Finck Cigar Company, his family-owned, 115-year-old cigar factory, “will not be able to sell enough at the increased price to remain open, and our 59 employees, half over 50 years of age, will become unemployed.” Other cigar makers have voiced similar concerns; for a lot more on what those concerns are, go here: http://news.google.com/news?pz=1&ned=us&hl=en&q=cigar+tax So, bottom line, you’re going to pay more for your smoking enjoyment, but it shouldn’t be that hard of a hit unless you smoke a lot of cigars. You’ll definitely feel it, however, if you buy a box of cigars instead of just a few singles at a time. The bigger toll might be the availability, but there’s no reason to go into panic mode over any of this. You’ll still be able to find cigars, and at a price, you can afford. It will take a lot more than a tax increase, even if it is the biggest one in U.S. history for tobacco products, to keep the cigar industry down. To soften the blow a little, we’re offering special prices on a number of some of our finest cigars. Check out our Bull-Schip (link) sale page for an up-to-the-moment run down on what’s available. You’ll see some of the most desirable names and lines out there, at almost unbelievable prices. Quick picks… If you’re looking for some ways to enjoy longer, but not necessarily warmer days, here are some smokes on the smaller side—both size-wise and price-wise, which we thought might be a good idea with tax time right around the corner—to consider: ACID by Drew Estate Blondie Country: Nicaragua Length/Ring: 4 x 38 Shape: Petite Corona (Short Panatela) Wrapper: Natural Strength: Medium If you haven’t yet tried a flavored cigar, this popular offering from Drew Estate might be a good place to start as its size is small enough to assuage any guilt you might feel if the first few puffs are a bitch and you decide to toss it away. At just under $16 for five sticks, it’s also a great deal if you end up really liking it. Baccarat Rothschild Country: Honduras Length/Ring: 5 x 50 Shape: Robusto Wrapper: Maduro Strength: Mild Baccarat’s a bit of a sleeper cigar. It tends to get overshadowed by bigger names but it keeps chugging along, providing a good smoke to a devoted fan base. If you’re looking for a mild smoke at a good price, but put this one on your shortlist. Don’t be surprised by a hint of sweetness when you light up; the manufacturer uses a specially sweetened gum to seal the cap. Henry Clay Brevas Length/Ring: 5.5 x 42 Shape: Petit Corona Wrapper: Maduro Strength: Medium to full Named after the American senator with business interests in Cuba, this is a medium- to full-bodied cigar that’s produced in the Dominican Republic with a Connecticut broadleaf Maduro wrapper, a Dominican binder and a Dominican blend of filler tobaccos. Simply a great smoke for the price, and if you haven’t experienced the “calm in a Henry Clay,” well, you should. A little on the higher end, but well worth the price, is the Fuente Hemingway Short Story. You won’t find a better cigar of this size for the price, which is one of the reasons why they’re legendary. The Fuente name provides the rest of the story. At 4” and a 48 ring, this cigar is truly an anytime, anyplace smoke.