How to Deal With a Tight Draw

You’re about to light up that cigar you’ve been looking forward to all day, when you realize the cigar won’t draw; and there’s nothing more frustrating than a cigar that won’t “pull.” As long as I’ve been smoking cigars (that’s pretty long, and a lot of cigars), I’ve had very few draw problems. I suppose I’ve been lucky, yet, I’ve received numerous emails over the years from smokers complaining that the draw on their cigar was too tight, and in some cases almost the entire box (or bundle) was affected!

Once upon a time, a friend gave me a very pricey, limited edition cigar, no Backwoods cigar here. I waited almost three years for the right occasion to smoke it. When that occasion finally came at a family wedding, the cigar was so tight I couldn’t get through the first inch. I even tried poking it with one of those long toothpicks from the bar. “What a waste,” I thought. And wouldn’t you know, I didn’t have a backup cigar.

A plugged or tightly-rolled cigar will smoke too hot, preventing the flavors and aroma from developing properly. So, with credit due to, here’s some advice that will help you deal with this problem. Let’s start with what causes a cigar to draw too loosely or tightly.

The manner, or technique, in which the cigar is rolled and the placement of the filler leaves determine how loose or tight a cigar will draw.

Some cigar smokers will tolerate a cigar that’s a little tight, as long as they can still get a decent puff. Cigars that are so tight you know before lighting up you’re going to have a problem, may also be “plugged.” Plugs are caused by an obstruction in the cigar, like a stem or misplaced leaves.

If your cigar has a very tight draw you have several options:

  1. Gently massage the cigar by gently rolling it between your thumb and forefinger. This can help loosen-up the filler and/or the obstruction, allowing the cigar to “open up.”
  2. If the plug is close to the foot of the cigar, cut the cigar behind the problem area. You’ll get less cigar, but if it works, take it.
  3. A draw poker can be very effective, but reaming a cigar has to be done very carefully and slowly, otherwise you risk cracking or perforating the cigar. Some smokers will use a long thin screw, paperclip, whatever works.

Fortunately, plugged cigars are more often the exception and not the rule. Feeling the cigar for soft spots will give you an indication of how well the cigar was rolled, but even a very firm cigar, if it’s well made, will draw effortlessly. The thing is, you won’t know until you clip it.

Gary Korb

Gary Korb

Executive Editor at

Gary Korb has been writing and editing content for since its debut in 2008. An avid cigar smoker for over 30 years, during the past 12 years he has worked on the marketing side of the premium cigar business as a Sr. Copywriter, blogger, and cigar reviewer. A graduate of the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, prior to his career in the cigar business, Gary worked in the music and video industry as a marketer and a publicist.

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