The cigarettes' tagline is: ‘The original flavour of Bermuda’. *File photo
The cigarettes' tagline is: ‘The original flavour of Bermuda’. *File photo

The origin of controversial Gombey cigarettes remains unclear.

We reported two weeks ago that a company in Florida is using the Gombey image on its cigarette packets. But whose idea was it to use the Gombey brand?

Gombey Cigarettes are made and sold by President Tobacco LLC and the tagline is: ‘The original flavour of Bermuda’. They are sold in six states in the US. It upset Gombey community, with troupe leaders telling us the cigarettes go “completely against what our Gombey culture stands for”.

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’. President Tobacco LLC is owned by Stan Freedman, who said: “We make cigarettes for any company that wants to do a private label.”

He would not comment further.

The cigarettes are locally distributed by Pitt and Company and sold at various retailers. John Tomlinson, president and CEO of the company said the cigarettes were not a Bermuda-born idea: “Basically, Stan is the manufacturer. He does brands in the Bahamas called Rush. He was looking to do a local cigarette here. It’s actually a cigar. It’s rolled tobacco.

“He’s the manufacturer and we distribute them.”

Asked why the Gombey is featured on the label, Mr Tomlinson said: “I think the best way to describe this whole thing is to say that Stan had a thriving tobacco business in the US and he has an export business model which is to manufacture cigarettes and cigars in the Caribbean using folklore characters. Bahamas is Rush. Here, it’s Gombeys.”

He continued: “He’s the copyright owner. We’re the distributor of tobacco in Bermuda. It made sense for him to approach us. He’s in the export business and the model is to export in the folklore character. Pitt and Co is just the distributor.”

Mr Tomlinson wouldn’t say whether or not he thought Gombey cigarettes were a good idea.