Cigar 101

Guide to Smoking Cigars in Public

Shane K. K's picture

Shane K.

Cigar lovers get enough flack for firing up these days in the face of an endless barrage of smoking bans, both indoors and outdoors. Sometimes I think being a fan of fine cigars recalls a hint of what the population endured during Prohibition when they craved a frothy beer or cocktail on Friday night. 

Enjoying your cigar in public, even where smoking a cigar is perfectly accepted, can potentially present a challenge. Nonetheless, who the heck wants to smoke all alone in a closet at home? Not me. But, I also don’t want to intentionally annoy anyone – nor be annoyed by anyone – who may not appreciate my smoking a cigar in their general vicinity.

We’ve outlined a handful of helpful tips below as a guide to smoking cigars in public that we hope will earn camaraderie, respect, perhaps a bit of envy, or even a compliment or two from passers-by who are more open-minded and curious about cigar smoking than disapproving of it. After all, nothing smells nicer than the aroma of a premium, handmade cigar in our books. And, hopefully those who hold onto an inflexible perspective of repulsion can manage to tough out an entire three seconds of walking by you on the sidewalk. In any case, it pays to exercise some good ol’ fashioned cigar etiquette whenever you’re ready to fire up in public.

Take a Look Around Before Lighting Up

Maybe you’re outside in a park or on a beach that allows cigar smoking, or you’re way up in the nosebleed section at an outdoor concert where you can get away with having a cigar. That’s great. But even when you’re in a “permission-granted” zone, it’s still best to take a look around and make sure you’re not going to get a bunch of guff the second you fire up. We’re not talking about the anti-smoking police thumping billy clubs in their palms.

As bona fide cigar lovers, your pals at Holt’s also like to think of ourselves as gentlemen. Therefore, we have no problem glancing around to make sure we’re not going to offend a family pushing a stroller down the street, or somebody who’s been relaxing on the park bench long before we showed up. It’s also courteous to keep in mind which way the wind is blowing, so you’re not sending wafts of unwanted smoke in a bystander’s direction.

We also like to apply this same basic and practical consideration even when we’re in a cigar shop or a cigar-friendly lounge. It’s really a simple matter of being aware of your surroundings to ensure an uninterrupted smoking experience and to avoid an unwanted confrontation where taking pleasure in your cigar becomes a contentious defense of your rights because someone else takes issue with cigar smoke.

Bring Enough For Your Pals

Okay, we’ve all been there. You’re headed to your buddy’s man cave to watch a big game or partake in a backyard barbecue with ice-cold beer and a game of horse shoes. It’s a casual affair and you’re not sure who’s all going to show up, but cigars are never discouraged. As a simple gesture of appreciation for the hospitality, bring a handful of smokes to share instead of just a single one for yourself.

That doesn’t mean you have to play Mother Teresa and feed an entire army of cigar-smoking novices that stretches around the block, but it never hurts to have a few extras on hand in case somebody asks you for one. Plus, there’s a good chance you could discover a few cigar-loving converts who could end up bringing more the next time.

Cut and Light Your Cigar Correctly

Not only is cutting and lighting your cigar correctly essential to an even burn and a pleasant-tasting experience, but it also prevents you from making a mess all over your shirt, your chair, or the carpet in your buddy’s man cave. Cigars can come unraveled and will burn crooked if they are not properly prepared.

Clip the end of your cigar with a sharp and reliable cigar cutter. If you forgot your cutter at home, it’s best not to use a dull butter knife or a household scissors. You’ll end up mangling your cigar and making a mess. There are a few tried and true methods you can employ using your fingernails or your teeth, but avoid tearing the wrapper off with the cap. Maintaining the integrity of your cigar’s construction is important.

Enjoying a cigar can quickly become a hazardous misadventure if you’re not careful. Is everyone staring at you wondering if they should let the fire department know you’re over for a visit again, while a trail of burning embers lands in your lap and at your feet?

Light the end of your cigar evenly and patiently and don’t incinerate it with a direct, overpowering triple-flame torch. Turbo-charged torch lighters are designed to light cigars with quick precision, but if used too eagerly, it only takes a second to scorch the entire side of a premium smoke you just spent twenty bucks on. Take your time, and if your cigar starts to burn a little funny, don’t be afraid to touch it up and get it back on track.

Avoid Blowing Smoke In Someone’s Face

This one’s a pretty obvious common courtesy. Even if you’re camped out in a roomful of fellow cigar lovers who are happily puffing away, it’s inconsiderate to blow a waft of smoke directly in someone’s face. Guide your cigar smoke in a hospitable path. It will taste just as amazing regardless of whether you tilt your head to the left or the right or turn around slightly to avoid stinging someone’s eyes with smoke.

Most cigar lovers I know practice this bit of respect for fellow smokers without forethought or prompting. Besides, it’s much more pleasing to take in the room note from somebody else’s cigar when it hits you indirectly.

Don’t Smoke Too Fast

Smoke your cigar at an easygoing pace. Puffing away like the tailpipe on a car can make you nauseous if you’re not careful. Premium cigars are meticulously constructed to stay lit once they’ve been fired up, so there’s no rush or need to continuously draw on your cigar at a frantic, non-stop pace. Doing so will cause the nicotine to crescendo in your system, and as a result, you can get sick from smoking too fast.

Sit back and take a few sips of coffee or your favorite libation in between puffs. For the same reason, cigars are great to enjoy when you’re having an engaging conversation with someone. You can set a cigar down and indulge at a leisurely pace while you’re engrossed in composing an email or talking with a pal.

Ash Your Cigar Carefully

The ash on a well-made cigar is meant to remain intact for a considerable period. There’s no need to flick or fidget with a cigar or continually knock it against the side of an ashtray every time there’s a tiny amount of ash on the end.

Gingerly twist the ash off in the ash dish or on the edge of an ashtray after an inch or two or three or four has gathered. Be gentle. The right amount of ash will fall off seamlessly with a faint tap. Aggressively banging a premium cigar around can cause the wrapper to unravel and it simply creates more mess.

Also, there’s no shame in emptying out a full ashtray. A lot of cigar bars and lounges observe this simple measure of customer service, but if you’re hosting a cigar-smoking event on your own or you’re handling the accoutrements, a clean ashtray makes for a far superior experience.

Don’t Mash Out Your Cigar

Premium cigars are handmade from naturally humidified tobaccos. That’s why it takes a minute or two to fire up a good cigar. It won’t ignite like a cigarette or a dry bale of straw. All the amazing binder, filler, and wrapper tobaccos have been patiently and deliberately assembled to deliver a specific profile of tasting notes. When it comes to tobacco, cigars offer a totally refined and unique experience that is better compared to fine wine or vintage whiskey than to other types of smoking, necessarily.

And when you get to the end of a premium cigar, there’s no need to mash or smoosh it out like a cigarette butt. A premium cigar will simply burn out on its own in a matter of minutes – typically 5 or less. However, it’s best if you wait for that extra moment or two to make sure the cigar is actually out before abandoning its remnants to the care of someone who could unknowingly toss it in the trash while the interior is still smoldering a touch. Simply rest the end of your cigar in an ashtray and keep an eye on it for a few minutes until the smoke ceases to rise. You can always give the nub a gentle squeeze before leaving to see that it’s cold. You’ll have a lot less to worry about on the drive home.

By the way, the same rule applies even if you’re smoking outside. It’s never wise to abandon a cigar that’s still burning in any circumstance. Give yourself an extra moment to make sure your cigar has completely cooled off.

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