Sad news out of Singapore... Is NZ just as bad?

Yesterday well known cigar aficionado, and good friend of the New Zealand cigar community, Ferdinand Piet released in a statement that the world cigar news site Ministry of Cigars was going offline for good.


The sites homepage, usually bustling with news and reviews from around the globe, today only shows one article - the official statement from MOC announcing its closure.


This is a sad sight to see for any cigar fan and for us here in New Zealand, it's a little bit too close to home.


Singspore's Tobacco laws are not hugely different from our own, and the 'shutdown' of MOC comes almost simultaneously with our own governments pressure on NZ tobacco importer Grant Ovenden. Followers of Grant's personal social media pages may have noticed that he no longer posts any photos of cigars, or of him smoking cigars or anything to do with tobacco. This is because the Ministry of Health in NZ has deemed any such behaviour as advertising, just because he also owns a tobacco importing business.


Picture this; Grant is out with friends at a bbq and he's having a cigar. A good mate takes a selfie with him and posts it online, then tags Grant in the photo... it now seems that this would class as advertising as per the MOH... and I can't help wonder if thats not just a little bit insane?






Here's me smoking an vast amount of tobacco in a photo just to prove a point...








Luckily for readers on The Cold Draw, we have no affiliation with tobacco sales, so this is where our law currently differs from Singapores, the MOH would be pushing shit up hill to say we are advertising, and our media laws do protect us to an extent, but it does make you wonder what the future is going to be like for us passionate cigar fans here in NZ.


I would like to extend a massive thank you to Ferdinand for all he has done for the cigar community of the past years, and wish him the best moving forward. On behalf of the New Zealand B&SOTL, we will miss the MOC.


Below is the official statement from Ministry fo Cigars.


Ministry of Cigars is going offline. It is with a heavy heart that I have to announce that Ministry of Cigars will be shut down. The reason for this is tobacco legislation, which is very strict in Singapore where I am based.

On August 16, 6 HSA (Health & Science Authorities) agents were waiting for me at my place of residence. They were acting on an anonymous tip that ministryofcigars.com was selling and advertising cigars. The first accusation is completely false, as ministryofcigars.com has never offered any cigars for sale. The second accusation is the one that causes the site to go black.

ADVERTISING

I was aware that adverting tobacco is prohibited in Singapore, just as in many other countries. But the definition of advertising to most people will be similar to the definition of the Adverting Association of the United Kingdom. That definition says “Advertising is a means of communication with the users of a product or service. Advertisements are messages paid for by those who send them and are intended to inform or influence people who receive them.” And with this definition in mind, ministryofcigars.com was not advertising as we were never paid to promote certain brands, blends, or lines.

After the visit of the HSA officers, I dove into the Singapore tobacco legislation about advertising and found out that the definition of advertising in that piece of legislation is different. It is much wider and every publication about tobacco is automatically advertising

This basically means that even birthday wishes on social media are considered advertising under Singaporean law. Every post containing a cigar, even without a brand is already considered promotion.

THROWING THE TOWEL

Last week it was time for my hearing at HSA. The outcome is that the website and social media channels have to come down. Whether the offense is severe enough for a hefty fine is still up in the air. The outcome of the investigation will be known in two to four months. Then it will be known whether I get off with a warning, or if a fine is in order. But one thing is for sure, Ministry of Cigars will no longer be online. Ironically, this message comes exactly 3 years after the first publication on the website, to the day.

For the last couple of weeks, I have been exploring other options. Options such as registering the website in another country but as an individual living in Singapore I would still violate Singaporean legislation. There are no legal ways to continue for me, and I don’t want to violate any legislation. I never intended to, and as a law-abiding citizen, I have to follow the law. My days as a cigar blogger have come to an end. But I will still be working in the industry, as I have a daytime job as wholesale & international sales manager for a cigar & pipe tobacco importer & distributor. So those that come to Intertabac 2022, expect to see me roaming the trade show floor.

A THANK YOU

Along the way, I met some great people. I gained a lot of support. Those that supported me, that helped me in the last three years, thank you from the bottom of my heart. I will cherish the great conversations I had with you, the knowledge I gained. The knowledge I was able to share. Cigars are my passion. And it’s with a heavy heart that I say farewell to Ministry of Cigars. But the friendships remain.

As for the HSA officers that were knocking at my door, and that handled my case, thank you for your high level of professionalism.

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Enjoy your read with a good cigar.