During WWII, Winston Churchill was rarely seen without one of the Romeo y Juliet cigars, which he reportedly enjoyed dunking in port or brandy. However, that was many moons ago, and since the 1980’s when several movies featured paid cigar product placement, it is not so common to see cigar smoking in public. Perhaps the latest cigar smokers in a movie were Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum of Independence Day (1996). So, has the Cuban cigar had its heyday?
Holidaymakers to Cuba will reply a resounding ‘No!’ if asked whether Cuban cigars have lost their appeal there. Everyone from chambermaids to presidents seems to go about daily business with a stogie hanging from their mouth. Many hotels do not even have a policy separating smoking and non-smoking rooms. Fidel Castro was such a well-known cigar enthusiast that the CIA reportedly tried to assassinate him by replacing one of his beloved smokes with an exploding cigar. The plot failed miserably, and Castro installed four of Cuba’s esteemed cigar rollers in an abandoned palace to keep him securely supplied.
This secret operation is now rumored to be the Cohiba factory, often considered the world’s finest brand. Fidel later admitted in an interview that his favorite cigar was the Cohiba Esplendido although he did not explain why. Smoking is definitely still integral to Cuban culture, but it is also their second largest export, after nickel, and therefore expected, so this is not really a beau ideal for the rest of the world.
United States Cuban Embargo
In the United States, smoking in general is largely frowned upon and 38 states have state-wide legislated action for banning smoking. Foreign smokers, visiting the country, are often irritated by how strict American smoking laws are. Cuban cigars were banned in the U.S. in 1962 as part of the American trade embargo, but even president at the time, John F. Kennedy was a ‘cigar snob’ and hastily sent his secretary out to stock up, ensuring he would be well supplied when the ban came into force.
Despite hostility toward smoking and the trade embargo, cigar smoking is still fairly popular in America, and is said to be on the rise since the 1990’s. A magazine, Cigar Aficionado, launched in 1992, is credited with transforming the smoker’s market and promoting cigars as a symbol of success. The magazine regularly features celebrities, such as Matthew MConaughey, Michael Douglas, Linda Evangelista and Sharon Stone on the front page. This popularity among female stars has not been missed by the Cuban cigar makers, Habanas, which launched a new cigar, called Julieta, aimed specifically at the female cigarophile.
Cuban Embargo repeal?
American cigar lovers are dying to know how President Obama’s tender advances toward Cuba
will end. At the moment, American cigar smokers are limited in choice of Cuban cigars, only getting their hands on brands such as Cohiba, and La Gloria from Swedish Match, which bought these names from the owner’s of the
original companies when they fled Cuba in 1962. The tobacco in these cigars is actually cultivated in Honduras and the Dominion Republic, and many smokers say it lacks the quality of the true cuban experience. However, people in the know have predicted that all restrictions relating to Cuba may disappear next year, so after 47 years, U.S cigar aficionados could be free to buy genuine Cuban again, and this can only empower the growing cigar fad amongst Americans.
Cigars on the rise in India
America is not the only place where cigar monomania is taking over with cigar soirees held in affluent homes all over India’s capital, Delhi. Businessmen, politicians, and other members of India’s elite are flaunting their Montecristo’s all over the place, and with only one dealer in the entire country who is authorized to import direct from Cuba, there is panic about a shortage. Cuban cigars have become the ultimate status symbol for anybody who’s anybody in India. There is even talk of establishing smoking clubs, similar to those found in America, where the rich and famous can sit back and relax while smoking the Cuban of their choice.
So, with cigar smoking is on the rise everywhere, even in the smoke intolerant States, and it seems that the tradition of savouring a fine Cuban cigar, whilst enjoying a stiff drink is more than safe for now.