A Journey Through Cigar History

Jeff Miller
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When Were Cigars Invented?

Although we can’t precisely pinpoint the year, tobacco is believed to have first been found in South America. Even though Columbus may have been the first one to encounter this plant (he wrote about it in his 1526 log), other Native American tribes had been smoking it for hundreds, if not thousands of years.

When Columbus sailed back to Spain, the natives did not share their tobacco with him. So he had to grow his own on the island of Hispaniola.

Christopher Columbus

Some believe that Columbus’s sailors were the first to smoke cigars. The popularity of this cigar grew fast, and by the mid-1500s, a thriving cigar industry was booming. However, tobacco production was mainly in Spanish territory and the crop was not exported to other countries.

Where Were Cigars Invented- The Discovery

So now that you’ve got your cigar, how do you smoke it? Probably not the way Christopher Columbus did it, at least not unless you’re a history major. Columbus was said to have enjoyed his cigars fresh off the trees in the Bahamas. But how did cigars become a modern-day boutique item with many health benefits?

Cuba is the cradle of the cigar, so there’s no surprise that it was in Cuba that the world’s most popular cigar brands were born. But how did Cuba get to where it is today?

Rumor has it that Columbus smoked his first cigar in 1492. However, historians contend that this couldn’t have happened as they weren’t called cigars back then … and Christopher Columbus never set foot in Cuba. At the time, the natives of the Caribean Islands would smoke corn leaves that they bundled and called tobacos.

So, if Christopher Columbus didn’t bring the cigar to the new world, who did? The answer lies with the Spanish, who colonized the island of Hispaniola in 1508 and later introduced their native tobacco to the Europeans. It was the Spanish who began the tradition of smoking leaf wrapped in leaf and enjoyed it with a touch of honey.

When Did Cigars Come to America?

The oldest piece of evidence to date for the consumption of tobacco in the Americas comes from the site of Monte Verde, Chile. And in North America, Europeans made references to smoking tobacco as early as 1519 in Hispaniola.

The smoking of tobacco would slowly spread over the next century as part of the Columbian Exchange in which numerous plants, animals, and goods were exchanged between the New and Old World.

The first mention of the drug in the now United States was in Jamestown, Virginia in 1612. The Jamestown settlers were growing tobacco and planting seeds around their settlement. At the time, they didn’t have the facilities to process tobacco into cigars. As a result, the leaves were dried and smoked in their crude pipes. It would quickly become a lucrative crop for the colony who would ship their produce back to England.

Many American settlers would find themselves smoking cigars by the end of the 17th century. However, the first cigar factory didn’t open in the U.S. until 1792. It was opened by Francisco Gomez. However, the French were already prepping their own tobacco production with the assistance of Spanish tobacco experts.


Much like the history of whiskey, cigars in America have evolved over the centuries. During the Colonial and Revolutionary times, cigars were one of the only methods of smoking. They were available for both male and female consumers.

During the 1800s, cigar smoking grew in popularity and the cigar industry blossomed. Many of the countries in which cigars were made were growing tobacco for those cigars. The success of the cigar industry at that time led to the increased popularity of the cigar industry in America.

During the 1800s and early 1900s, Americans were also smoking more pipe tobacco than ever before because of the increase in the number of companies making and selling tobacco. Pipe smoking increased in popularity so much that pipe tobacco came second only to cigar smoking.

The increased popularity of cigar smoking this era represents when cigar smoking became something popular among men only.

During this time period, some of the best-known Cuban cigar brands were made such as Rocky Tampa and Romeo and Juliet.

Cuban-American War

A Major Change

When Fidel Castro became dictator of Cuba, he opened Cuba to a world audience, which resulted in the Cuban cigar becoming synonymous with luxury and wealth. Even outside of Cuba, cigars were becoming a standard symbol of wealth and social status.

Part of their allure was the fact that they seemed to be available only to the elite, and many governments even tried to regulate them. Countries like France and Germany ultimately limited cigars to twenty per container, and if the cigar was longer than sixty centimeters, it was subject to an additional tax of five percent.

By the middle of the twentieth century, the tobacco industry had gained more power in places like Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua. This drastically affected the quality of tobacco moving through the industry. However, the announcement of the Cuban Embargo in 1962 effectively ended the cigar industry in Cuba and put greater emphasis on tobacco growing in other countries.

Since that time, changes in cigar making have occurred at an ever-increasing pace. Cigar making is now steeped in science. The act of acquiring tobacco and rolling it into a cigar was once an art form, but now, cigar making is a more controlled and exacting process.

The Evolution of the Cigar

The cigar is a simple yet elegant product. Through the years, the cigar began its journey as a hand rolled product, to one created with machines. Various manufactures started to commercially manufacture cigars, which brought about standardization. This was achieved by a minimum lot size. The final evolution in manufacturing cigars occurred when the cigar was introduced to the steamroller technique.

The cigar is in a league above other tobacco products due to its intricate process of creating the cigar, called Hand Rolled Premium Cigars. The first rolled cigars came out in Cuba and Jamaica in the late 1800s. The very first commercial Cuban cigars were rolled using Java tobacco in 1834 by Eduardo Lejanza on “El Principe”.

In the early 1800s, cigar making was a time-consuming art. It was common practice for pipe tobacco to be cut into thin strips that were individually wrapped in sage leaves. One at a time, the leaves were rolled. They were then held in place with pins (used to fix hat brims) and placed in a kiln to be dried.

In Honduras, a farmer named Juan Castello was working on a machine that could help him prepare tobacco leaves before they were rolled. The final product was manually rolled and wrapped in palmetto leaves. However, machine rolled cigars didn’t become popular until the end of the century.

Cigar Statistics and Facts

Smoking cigars is known to be a male pattern and is practiced by two thirds of the total cigar consumption. Surprisingly, since 1990, for the first time this percentage reduced by nearly 50%. This is attributed to the World Health Organization’s anti-tobacco campaign and the increase in the number of female cigar smokers.

Around 65% of cigar smokers identify themselves as non-smokers. This figure is much higher in countries with high cigarette tax. On the other hand, only 0.3% of cigar smokers identify themselves as regular smokers, while around 10% of the population consume two or more cigars per week. So there are not many heavy smokers. Only 2% of smokers can be characterized as heavy smokers.

Between 1995 and 2012 the annual growth rate of cigar consumption was almost 2%. This was slightly lower than the medical and pharmaceutical market. It is expected that annual consumption will continue to grow by 2% until 2017. However, this will be followed by a decline.

In 2011 the United States consumed slightly more than 20% of all cigars. This is followed by Germany and France, which consume around 13% each. Other big consumers are Spain, Russia and the United Kingdom, which consume between 3% and 5%.

Final Thoughts

Firstly, thank you for reading this book! I truly hope you enjoyed it, and will recommend it to your friends and family.

It goes without saying that I couldn’t have written this book alone. I had the support of many friends in order to create the content of this book. Without them, this book would definitely not be a reality. While there are many people I want to thank, I will lean on my experience as an entrepreneur and single out the two groups of people who received the most influence by me, and people who helped in the book’s creation.

My personal network helped me a lot along the way. They gave me ideas, inspiration, and encouragement. Without their support, I would have never been able to write this book. So, I’d like to thank my family, friends, and network for inspiring me to make this a reality.

I’d also like to thank everyone who helped me with content:

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