The cigarettes have the tagline ‘The original flavour of Bermuda’. *Photo by Kageaki Smith
The cigarettes have the tagline ‘The original flavour of Bermuda’. *Photo by Kageaki Smith

Gombeys are synonymous with Bermuda and tradition.

But should they also be associated with cigarettes?

A company in Florida is using the Gombey image on its cigarette packets. Gombey Cigarettes are made and sold by President Tobacco LLC and the tagline is: ‘The original flavour of Bermuda’.

And some of our Gombeys, while not quite hopping mad, are certainly  perturbed.

 “It goes completely against what our Gombey culture stands for,” says Bilal Binns, vice-captain of Warner Gombeys.

 “I don’t think they should be sold,” agreed Wayne Raynor, leader of H and H Gombeys. “It’s not a way to put forward Gombeys.”

It’s not only the Gombeys who think the cigarette tie is a drag.

Ex-Police Commissioner and former PLP senator Jonathan Smith expressed his dismay on Facebook. He wrote: “This caught my attention today. A package of ‘Gombey’ cigarettes, complete with a Bermuda tagline.

“What? Gombey cigarettes!? I looked further. Manufactured in the USA by President Tobacco LLC using tobacco grown in Virginia and the Carolinas. Nothing Gombey about Virginia and Carolinas that I know of. There’s more.

“This tobacco company is only licensed to sell in six states in the USA. Yes, six states, not the other 44. And yet, we have a tobacco company [using] our very own Gombeys. Heck, a Gombey can’t even smoke a cigarette with his face mask on!”

The product was registered in April 2012 in Aventura, Florida and the cigarettes are available in Bermuda. The white box features a small, colourful Gombey on the cover with the words: “Premier blend, full flavour”.

“I do not think it’s a good idea at all,” Bilal Binns told us . 

“We have many kids who join the Gombeys and it’s not a good message to send out to them. Kids are taught not to smoke and seeing a Gombey on a cigarette box can possibly confuse them.  

“Likewise, it can send out the wrong message to a tourist visiting the island who have no clue what Gombeys are about.”

He continued: “It is offensive and disrespectful because someone who isn’t Bermudian is taking our heritage and using it to make money. It’s also offensive and disrespectful to market the Gombeys as a product that isn’t good for you and can cause health problems.”

Mr Binns said the cigarettes could be damaging to the Gombey brand: “For example, the Gombey culture does not promote smoking and there is no sort of affiliation with Gombeys and tobacco. This can give people the wrong idea about Gombeys, especially after seeing the name ‘Gombey’ and a picture of one on a cigarette box. It takes away from our strong Bermudian heritage.  

“The Gombeys are uniquely Bermudian and should be used to promote positive living and unity.”

Wayne Raynor agrees: “I’m all about Gombeys. It’s the only real Bermudian tradition. And I don’t think Gombeys should be pushed forward on cigarettes. When people see it, they will think that’s what Bermuda is about. Most Gombeys in Bermuda are kids — about 80 per cent are under 16.”

Asked if he felt the use of the Gombey image was disrespectful, Mr Raynor said: “In a sense, yes and no because I know they’re trying to promote Bermuda. Everybody looks at Gombeys to promote Bermuda. We have other things in Bermuda to promote than Gombeys.”

Mr Raynor said he wouldn’t mind if there was a Gombey rum because they do drink rum.

“Not all Gombeys smoke, it’s unhealthy”, he added.

We called and emailed President Tobacco LLC. Its owner, Stan Freedman did email this reporter back saying he was on a cruise and wouldn’t be able to talk until after he arrived in Miami on Saturday. 

What do you think? E-mail reporter Mikaela Ian Pearman: