In a blog I wrote a couple weeks ago, I took cigar snobbery to task. Yet there are those who still defend cigars as a rich man’s diversion. Unfortunately, their arguments rely on anecdotes instead of evidence.
I have a little spare time on my hands, so I’ll set the record straight with facts.
Myth #1. Cigar consumption favors the very wealthy.
Let’s start by looking at relatively-current data pulled from “Trends in Cigar Consumption and Smoking Prevalance”:
Of all male cigar smokers surveyed for this study (both in 1990 and 1996),
the majority earn under $75,000. Of note is that the Cigar Boom (the largest-ever expansion of the cigar industry) neatly bisects the date range.
Myth #2. Cigar consumption historically favored the very rich.
- Tobacco (including primitive cigars) was regularly smoked by the Tainos and other Caribbean tribes, regardless of wealth or status, for centuries prior to Columbus’s arrival.
- In 1900, there were approximately 300,000 cigar brands on the market. Did there even exist 300,000 “very rich” people in the world then?
- In 1901, four in five American men smoked at least one cigar a day. Surely they weren’t all “very rich,” were they?
- In 1905, there were 80,000 cigar-making operations in the United States, most of them small, drugstore-type shops where families sat and rolled cigars and sold them immediately.
- Mark Twain notoriously smoked only cheap cigars. Adjusted for inflation, his favorite cigars (according to a 1905 letter) cost $1.18 each.
- In 1917, Thomas R. Marshall famously declared this country needed “a good 5¢ cigar” (or a good 83¢ cigar, adjusted for inflation).
Myth #3. Cigars are an appurtenance and symbol of success.
At their most basic level, cigars are tobacco – nothing more, and nothing less.
Sure, an expensive cigar can be a symbol of success, especially to those obsessed with image. So too are cigars often smoked in celebration of childbirth or marriage. But many of us working- and middle-class folks indulge in a cigar with our morning coffee, as a leisurely afternoon diversion, or after a meal.
For most cigar smokers, it has nothing to do with victory or success, I assure you. It’s about enjoyment, relaxation, and camaraderie.
Myth #4. A bluecollar image of cigar smokers wouldn’t hinder the “anti-smoke Nazis’” efforts.
I wonder what the CRA would have to say about this. After all, reaching out to cigar smokers from all walks of life has been our best weapon against taxation and anti-smoking legislation to-date. Their successes are based on a very simple formula: a larger member base means deeper coffers, and more effective lobbying.
Myth #5. No one ever decided to try a cigar because a guy driving an eighteen-wheeler was smoking one.
This assertion is at odds with what I witness every day as a tobacconist. The people who come into my store share in common a love of cigars, regardless of political persuasion, sports teams, and yes, even income. If we share similar taste in cigars, I don’t care WHAT you do for a living – I’ll consider your suggestion any day of the week!
-Hayward “Lou” Tenney
Famous Smoke Shop