A brief History of Cigars
The tobacco plant and the practice of smoking cigars was discovered in the new world by the legendary explorer, Christopher Columbus. in 1492 he brought the tobacco plant back to Spain since when cigars have been associated with the rich and famous around which a whole culture and has grown up, raising the smoking of cigars to almost an art form, practiced princilally by men and a growing number of women.
On its arrival in Europe the cigar was at first produced in Spain, where gradually over time it became a very popular pastime, eventually spreading to other parts of Europe. Although ti thrived well in Spain, the climate of South American provided the perfect conditions and as the Spaniards colonised more and more of South America, tobacco crops were cultivated in such places as Ecuador, Dominican Republic and Honduras, later spreading to Brazil, Indonesia and parts of Africa.
If asked, the cigar connoisseur will not hesitate to advise that the very best cigars are Cuban where it is regarded as a national symbol and has also served the US well as political porn. Its unique, distinct flavour and smooth texture is believed to be derived for the microclimate of the island together with the well honed skills of the Cuban cigar rollers.
Parallels have been drawn between fine wine and a good cigar both of which can be identified by their own distinct and individual flavours. As with fine wines, the cigar connoisseur is able to distinguish and isolate the subtle flavours and textures of each individual cigars, even to the extent of being able to identifying the country in which the tobacco leaves were produced. The best cigars are produced from well aged and fermented tobacco leaves, characterized by their smooth subtle flavours and the absence of the smokey after-tastes enjoyed by cigar aficionados around the world.
Some people try to compare a good cigar with a good cigarette, when in truth there is no credible comparison which can be drawn. Mass produced cigarettes are generally made from one type of tobacco whilst top quality cigar are made from selected and specially processed leaves from which connoisseur’s are able to identify a wide variety of flavours, ranging from chocolate, apple, vanilla and even coffee.
Cigars have in the past and still today being used as a political tool by the most powerful country in the world against one of the weakest. In the 60’s the US blocked the importation of Cuban cigars in an effort to control President Fidel Castro political power, this of course greatly impacting on the Cuban economy, an embargo which remains in place to this day. This resulted in many of the top Cuban growers immigrating tonumerous South American countries to continue tobacco farming. This unavailability ultimately gave rise to the illegal importation and the production of counterfeit Cuban cigars, with the genuine article being sold at highly inflated prices.
Cigar aficionados have established smoking clubs and publish magazines to further stimulate interest. It should not be forgotten however, that cigars are made from tobacco leaves packed with nicotine which is a highly addictive and dangerous substance. In common with many cigarette smokers, cigar smokers are suspended in a world of denial, claiming that if cigars are smoked properly and not inhaled, then it is safer than smoking cigarettes. This is a text book example of not wishing to face up to the facts. Cigars are enormously dangerous and a health hazard, able to provoke the onset of oral cancer and cancer of the larynx.
This well known fact seems not to deter avid smokers because all the evidence point to the ever increasing practice of cigar smoking. A survey amongst Americans undertaken in 1990 estimated that 4 out of 5 US men were cigar smokers; however there is also on, a growing number of so-called ‘sophisticated’ female smokers who continue to ignore the obvious and well publicised health risk.