Female Cigar Smokers: How They Broke Taboo
FEMALE CIGAR SMOKERS. THEIR STORY. THEIR LEGACY
When you think about legendary cigar smokers, your thoughts are immediately drawn to men. Devotees of Cuban Cigars like Fidel Castro, Winston Churchill and John F. Kennedy, to directors like Alfred Hitchcock and Charlie Chaplin. Marlene Dietrich remains one of the only poster girls to represent cigars from a bygone time. With that being said, if you dig a little deeper and uncover the story of cigars and their popularity, you’ll find women have always been an accomplishment to their legacy.
GENDER ASSUMPTIONS - We mentioned Rudyard Kipling in our post: The Art Between a Cuban and Their Creative Cigar. He famously distinguished a link between cigar gender stereotypes, with his line “A woman is only a woman but a good cigar is a smoke”. Notably, other leading male cigar smokers have also highlighted the strict relationship between men and cigars. Groucho Marx said “Given the choice between a woman and a cigar, I will always choose the cigar”, and Samuel Fuller remarked “A woman is just a script, but a cigar is a motion picture”. Tobacco itself has been enjoyed by women for thousands of years. Aztec women were known to smoke and Spanish conquistadors (Spanish and Portuguese soldiers) reported female smokers in Peru, around 1500. The Spanish played a significant role in unearthing the representation of cigars as a luxurious and affluent status-symbol. Countesses and duchesses in Spain delighted in smoking them. The Spanish were quick to realise the superiority of Habanos over other cigars, and the country soon demanded their smoke originated from Havana.
“Gentlemen, you may smoke” – King Edward VII
VICTORIAN BACKLASH – During the Victorian Times, the acceptability of female cigar smokers intensely declined. In paintings and art, they were depicted negatively – usually on bicycles and with no element of luxury insight. This era marked the stereotype of male smokers and made all the women smokers resort to smoking in secret and living with their pastime in shame. Smoking in general, was such a female taboo that public opinion assumed prostitutes were the only women to engage in tobacco products. After the reign of Victoria had ended, King Edward VII notoriously said “gentlemen, you may smoke”, and with that, Britain’s views of cigars and tobacco rapidly changed.
1920’S CIGAR GLAMOUR – Although the outlook of cigars being for men was still felt in society during the 20’s, women-only cigar clubs became hidden gems – particularly for various artists, writers and those defined as “renegade”. In America, where cigars were even more typecast to men, female cigars clubs had to remain a closed secret. Marlene Dietrich was a pioneer in revolutionising the image of women. The French Press attacked her androgynous style and warned of her arrest if she stepped foot in France wearing menswear. Her response was to turn up in a tweed pantsuit which at the time, looked as though it was created for men. Dietrich reportedly smoked cigars watching burlesque shows and smoked a cigar in the movie “Touch of Evil”. Her relaxation at smoking cigars paved the way for other women globally to light and adore.
"Rebellious and feminist"
The 90’s, rebellion and female cigar smokers today – In the 90’s, cigars became Vogue. Jennifer Lopez, Demi Moore, Madonna and Sharon Stone were all photographed holding. This was before the smoking ban came into place and led many female stars to smoke privately, for fear of criticism. Countries with a more accepting history of cigars, have an increased amount of women who smoke. Cuba, Spain and the Dominican Republic for example, show less stigmatisation towards cigars and women. In Japan, where there are currently no smoking bans, research suggests at least 10% of cigar smokers are female. Because women smoking cigars was forbidden and seen as unconventional, female cigar smokers in places like America and the UK, are now portrayed as rebellious and feminist. Back in 2001, The Harvard Crimson published an article called “Little Rebels: Harvard Women Who Smoke Cigars”. In pop culture, Rihanna – who has long created a ‘cool’ image and pushed herself away from a ‘role model’ status, promotes cigars in videos and on her social-media. Havana brand Romeo y Julieta Cigars produced a women cigar ‘Julieta’ in 2011, but women cigar smokers testify to appreciating the same Cuban Cigars as men.
Female cigar smokers have not yet won the battle to smoke cigars as their opposite sex. However, their history with cigars and tobacco is forever seeded and with the rise of cigars in culture, it’s only a matter of time before more women cigar aficionados come forward. Cohiba Panetelas Cigar has a thin ring gauge of 26 and contains tasting notes of fine leather, grass and barnyard. Incredibly popular with women and loved by all as a quick pre-dinner smoke. Additionally, Cohiba Exquisitos Cigar has a ring gauge of 33 and is a fantastic morning smoke with delightful floral tones.