Women and Cigars: A Growing Trend

Cigar smoking has traditionally been a predominantly male activity, but the number of women who smoke cigars is on the rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 2 percent of women in the United States say they smoke cigars. This is a significant increase from the 1980s, when Cigar AfiStrap reported that women accounted for just one-tenth of one percent of the U. S.

total. A market study conducted in the late 1980s determined that women accounted for one-tenth of one percent of the total cigarette market in the United States. Norman Sharp, president of the United States Tobacco Association, says that the market has clearly changed in the eight years since this study was conducted. Anecdotal reports from cigar manufacturers and retailers suggest that women are smoking cigars in significantly greater numbers. However, this is still four times less than the number of men participating, so why is there still such a disparity? To answer this question, it's important to look at the history of cigar smoking among women. The origins of smoking are unknown, but anthropologists believe that ancient Mayan women were just as likely as their men to smoke tobacco.

The word 'cigar' originally derives from the Mayan word 'sikar', meaning 'smoking rolled tobacco leaves'. In fact, a Guatemalan ceramic vessel dating from the tenth century depicts a Mayan man smoking tobacco leaves tied with a rope. The earliest evidence that women smoked cigars can be found in the Aztec culture of the 14th century. Tobacco was used for spiritual and medicinal purposes by female doctors and midwives. An illustration shows Aztec women receiving flowers and smoking pipes before eating at a banquet. In 1492, during their explorations of the Americas, American Indians offered Christopher Columbus dried tobacco leaves as a gift.

Soon after, sailors brought tobacco to Europe and the plant was cultivated across the continent. In 1735, John Cockburn, an Englishman traveling in Costa Rica, said: “These gentlemen gave us some seegars (sic). These are tobacco leaves rolled in such a way that they serve both a pipe and the tobacco itself. These, both ladies and gentlemen, really like to smoke.”Perhaps the first example of stereotyping men and women with cigars can be found in Rudyard Kipling's 1899 short story, The Betrothed.

A bride says to her future husband: “Darling, you must choose between me and your cigars”. Rudyard Kipling infamously said: “A woman is just a woman, but a good cigar is smoke”.At the turn of the century, both American and European women enjoyed smoking cigars. But it remained a secret love story; Marlene Dietrich smoked while watching burlesque shows at the Frisky Pom-Pom Club in Hollywood. She is said to have started smoking cigars in Berlin in the 1920s.

At that time, Berlin had women-only smoking clubs frequented by writers, artists, and others who were living what would be called a hedonistic lifestyle. In a cameo appearance, Dietrich appeared smoking a cigar in the movie “Touch of Evil”. Secret smoking clubs quickly sprang up in major cities in the United States; cigars were considered to be exclusively for men so women had to smoke in private. Independent women felt that they had the same right to those same powers that men considered theirs. During the tobacco boom of the 1990s, women began smoking cigars openly. Over the past few decades, more and more women have embraced this hobby. Women began to discover cigarettes through their partners, friends or through other women.

Perhaps one reason why women started to enjoy cigars so much is because there is something delightfully perverse about them; engaging in what was known only as a male habit was also once intriguing and dangerous for modern women. Nowadays there is a high proportion of female cigar smokers around the world. In Japan, research suggests that about 10% of cigar smokers may be women and prefer flavored cigars such as apple and cherry. In Brazil, a growing number of young people smoke cigars; many are female due to their economic resources. In South Africa too there is an increasing number of female cigar smokers due to novelty and excitement. Women from all over are attending cigar clubs, events, tastings and trade shows; they are well informed and know what they want to smoke. Like men, women prefer certain cigars that are suitable for a specific occasion because of their particular flavor, intensity or size.

Some tobacco companies market directly to women who produce sweet floral cigarettes; for example Avanti manufactures Mocha Estilo cigars which come in packs of three practical and easy to carry sizes. However, not all female cigar smokers prefer milder sweet flavors; some also enjoy rich and daring cigars such as Uppercut Double Corona Punch. Habanos launched...