In the beginning of Western cigar smoking, Christopher Columbus sailed into what would later be known as Cuba’s Bahia de Gibara on October 29th, 1492. There he sent two sailors to scout the terrain and report back with any information concerning the island. During this reconnoiter, the sailors encountered Native Americans smoking raw twists of leaves that would be later be grown and fashioned into what we all know now as cigars. These early cigars were uncured, wrapped in corn husks, and had a ring gauge roughly the size of a man’s fore arm! Legend has it that one of the sailors named Rodrigo de Jerez actually took a couple of puffs off of one of these early Havanas and thus ensured that as the first European cigar smoker he would forever be mentioned in articles like this. As a side note, he also was the first victim of anti-smoking laws by being jailed for three years by The Inquisition once back in Spain for smoking in public!
Soon cigar smoking was all the rage in Spain and finally the rest of the Western World. By 1845 tobacco replaced coffee as Cuba’s chief export and cigars became a symbol of wealth for Europeans. The cigar band became an industry standard during this time and many that still exist, including Punch and Partagas, remain virtually unchanged today. By 1873, France owned the Havana cigar trade and was selling over a billion cigars a year. England was the chief importer at this time and began to influence a wider variety of shapes and sizes. By 1890 The United States soon became a major player in the world cigar market as factories in Tampa Florida rose in prominence. With the growing population of Cuban cigar rollers in America, “made in Tampa” was almost synonymous with “made in Cuba” as these masters would roll their cigars with 100% Havana leaf.
During the reign of Queen Victoria, cigar smoking in England was popular but limited to homes and private clubs. Many of the traditions of cigar smoking including the after dinner cigar with the boys and the smoking jacket originate from this time. People were not allowed to smoke on the streets or in any public place but in 1901 King Edward ascended to the throne and his first words as King were, “Gentlemen, you may smoke!” With this proclamation, he not only inspired a brand of cigars that lasts unto this day but also ensured that people who write articles such as this must mention his name as well.
Today, cigars are manufactured all over the world and although they may not be quite as popular as during the 19th century, they are once again a major factor in the tobacco industry. In the last ten years cigar consumption has more than tripled in The United States and an explosion of brands, accessories, and shapes have been born out of this rise in popularity. Although due to recent revelations concerning the dangers of tobacco usage Victorian Era restrictions in The United States are becoming as fashionable as cigar consumption, many peoples from all walks of life are discovering the joys of cigar smoking. If you do not now smoke, you are probably wise to not start. But if you are a smoker and are looking to enjoy a storied and ancient hobby then allow me to be the first to say to you, “Ladies and Gentlemen, you may smoke cigars!”