This week has been a tough one for the pipe smoking community. We found out this week that the venerable McClelland Tobacco Company has officially shut its doors and will no longer produce their storied blends. Mary and Mike McNiel began blending tobacco in 1977, and have produced some of the most popular blends in the pipe smoking community. Mike is hailed by many in the PS community as one of, if not the, greatest tobacco blenders that America has ever produced. Some of their most popular offerings included Latakia blends like Frog Morton, Virginia blends such as 5100 Red Kake and Virginia Woods and seasonal blends like Christmas Cheer and Holiday Spirit.
According to the McNiels, the decision to close up shop was due to the disappearance of high-quality tobacco leaves and looming FDA regulations that make it financially impossible for them to meet the requirements for “licensing.” These new regulations are being enacted under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, legislation that is meant to keep youths from having access to tobacco products. Premium tobacco products like cigars and pipe tobacco have never been popular among youths. This brings to mind Frederic Bastiat’s principle of “The Seen And The Unseen.” What is seen in these regulations is an attempt to protect children from harmful substances, but the unseen effects are the crippling of small businesses across the country and the slow demise of an entire industry. As always, state intervention in the free market undermines individual liberty and distorts essential market signals that coordinate the most efficient allocation of resources.
Pipe smokers everywhere mourn the loss of these incredible blends and frantically look for the last remaining tins. While we’re disappointed that this decision was made, we appreciate the fantastic contribution the McNiels have made to the pipe tobacco industry. The reputation of McClelland tobacco will always and forever be one of high quality and incredible flavor.