History of Cigar Aficionadas
Cigars are one of the greatest male secrets, rituals and rites of passage. Yet, believe it or not, the connection between women and cigars is legendary. Women have enjoyed smoking cigars for generations. Over 2,000 years ago the ancient Mayans took up smoking. Not to mention, historically they were the first people known to roll a good cigar. At least a 1,000 years before Christopher Columbus landed on San Salvador, the native Indians were smoking rolled tobacco in religious ceremonies to invoke healing and courage. Aztec women were also known to smoke. How do we know? Well, the insignia for an Aztec midwife or doctor back in the 1300s was a tobacco gourd or pouch carried for medicinal purposes. The first “modern connection” between women and cigars came from the Spanish conquistadors who reported seeing women cigar smokers in Peru around the year 1500.
Eventually, the Spaniards took tobacco back to Europe which proved to be far more valuable than gold to Queen Isabella. The association between wealth, social status and cigars was established. From then on, it wasn’t uncommon for Spanish royalty – countesses and duchesses included – to smoke cigars. In England early references to women and tobacco go back to the 1600s. Between the late 1600s and 1700s, tobacco was commonplace in America. Cigar historians note that before the 19th century there’s little evidence that women thought twice about lighting up and smoking cigars. Whether it was tied to religious rituals, mystical healing properties, status symbol or simply out of pure enjoyment, women were smoking cigars (and/or pipes) for centuries!
But by the mid-19th century Victorian sensibilities kicked in and women cigar smoking was no longer well-accepted by society or by men. Once they took hold, these gender assumptions about women and tobacco lasted for decades. For years, it seemed the sentiment was women just weren’t supposed to like cigars. Hollywood played its part in reinforcing the message that a woman could revere cigars, know how to appreciate them, but they were to be left to guys to smoke. That was supposed to be the “ideal woman” according to Hollywood. But, the Roaring Twenties came and broke down some of those barriers to open up the way for women. One 1930s Hollywood actress pushed the boundaries and daringly flaunted her cigars.
Women smoking cigars was definitely more readily acceptable in Europe before it was in the U.S. Women’s cigar smoking clubs flourished in Europe and served as both networking and social outlets for “progressive” (i.e., “renegade”) women. But since cigars were still considered the property of men, female cigar clubs in the U.S. had to exist in secret. Here women cigar rollers worked in factories across America and had to smoke them in secret or find ways to smoke in peace. Some would cut up cigars and re-roll the tobacco in cigarette paper, then use a hairpin to hold it all together because they preferred cigars to the cigarettes of that time.
This differed dramatically for women in Latin cultures where due to historic connections to cigars smoking them was more readily accepted. In fact, cigar smoking women in places like Cuba, the Dominican Republic and even Spain is commonplace everywhere and deeply ingrained into their culture.
In the 1980’s, market research noted women were only one-tenth of one percent of the total cigar market in the United States. Today, women have become a powerful buying audience. Just a decade later and that percentage grew to 5% of all cigars are sold to women. In the late 2000s, cigars represented a $3.4 billion business and that figure has surely increased since then. Women are not only smoking cigars, but they are becoming experienced cigar aficionadas, brand ambassadors and big time entrepreneurs in the multi-billion dollar cigar industry. Cigar accessories specifically designed for women are in high demand! I personally know of several woman-owned small businesses that make cigar accessories and other accoutrements as well as a mobile cigar lounge. From jewelry, wine accessories, custom cigar sticks and cases to apparel, private label cigars, and a cigar lounge on wheels, these women are DOING IT BIG in the cigar industry!
But, why do women even like smoking cigars in the first place? For one, the modern day cigar woman is a true "cigar aficionada." We smoke for the relaxation and the pleasure it brings. Cigars are a relaxing ritual, a meditative experience, a reflection of the level of status and success that they have achieved, and simply about enjoying life’s simple pleasures.
Cigar smoking is also an experience that can actually bond women with each other and the men in their lives. When a man and woman share the love of cigars, it definitely creates a unique intimacy between them. In fact, a lot of men find it extremely sexy and for other men it can be an initiation rite—a way to break down gender barriers and welcome a woman into the group.
Today’s cigar woman doesn’t smoke cigars to be part of a "trend." She is a strong, passionate, confident, ultra-successful woman. She is unique and independent, with discriminating tastes, and she lives life to the fullest. Today’s cigar aficionada is ME!
I started smoking cigars over 20 years ago. An ex-boyfriend introduced me to them and I loved it! I took a hiatus for a while, but picked it back up recently and haven't looked back. I live close to a cigar lounge and have been accepted by the "regulars" who all sit up front. I claim them as my "Cigar Familia" because that's what we are when we're all together. I don't do the flavored cigars either. I'm a real cigar aficionada! Wherever I travel now I look for the closest cigar bar or lounge so I can go enjoy a good stick. I've been to lounges in Indiana, Atlanta, Maryland, Washington D.C., and even the famous Cigar House in Puerto Rico. And, I can't wait to visit others across the U.S. and abroad. I even have my own humidor and since I'm a tad obsessive with the color pink - my cigar accessories are all pink! From my lighter, multiple cutters, cigar stick and travel cases, they are ALL pink! As we say in my cigar crew "Sticks Up"!