Women and Cigars: A History

woman smoking a cigar

If you were asked to think of a cigar-smoking icon, then the likelihood is you’d think of a man. People commonly associated with smoking cigars include the likes of Winston Churchill, Fidel Castro and JFK, with women rarely making the list of top famous cigar smokers. However, that is definitely not to say that they aren’t out there. Here we will explore the history of women and cigars, as well as some of the iconic women who have enjoyed them.


Early Cigars

The history of women and cigars has fluctuated as times have changed. Historically, women in tobacco-growing regions smoked cigars, with Aztec women known to smoke, as well as reports of Peruvian women during the 16th-century smoking cigars. As cigars began to be imported and created around the world, they became associated with affluence and luxury, as such, important female figures were known for smoking cigars. Notably, Spanish countesses and duchesses were known for enjoying smoking cigars.


The Victorian Era

The Victorian era marked a shift in attitudes towards women smoking. Queen Victoria had banned cigar smoking in her presence, and with this came a shift in public opinion. It became unacceptable for women to be smoking, with the habit seen as a taboo and something that only prostitutes would engage in. When King Edward VII ascended to the throne, he broke this ban for men with the words “Gentlemen, you may smoke”.


20th Century Attitudes

The attitudes surrounding female smokers remained held by male cigar smokers and continued well into the 20th century. Rudyard Kipling famously stated, “a woman is only a woman, but a good cigar is a smoke”. Likewise, American director Samuel Fuller claimed that “a woman is just a script, but a cigar is a motion picture”, and Groucho Marx stating that “given the choice between a woman and a cigar, I will always choose the cigar”. While in some ways, this shows how much they love cigars, it also reveals how they believed women to be inferior to cigars – and perhaps, therefore, not worthy of smoking them!


Challenging Stereotypes

During the 1920s, there was something of a secret resurgence in female cigar smokers. Women-only cigar clubs cropped up, a hideaway for ‘progressive’ women, female artists and writers who loved to smoke. One such club was found in Berlin and is believed to be where Marlene Dietrich smoked before she moved to the United States. Dietrich can certainly be considered a cigar-smoking icon. Consistently challenging female stereotypes, Marlene Dietrich famously wore ‘men’s’ clothing and smoked both cigars and cigarettes. She even appeared smoking a cigar in the film ‘Touch of Evil’!


Throughout much of the 20th century, smoking, particularly cigar smoking, remained a hobby for men to partake in. This remains reflected in many of the practices and rituals surrounding cigar smoking; men enjoy a cigar together after a business deal, after the birth of a baby or during stag parties. However, things changed for women and cigars as the century came to an end.

woman smoking a cigar

Modern Cigar Smoking

In the 1990s, there was a huge resurgence in the number of women smoking cigars. With cigar smoking seen as a symbol of high-status and luxury, many women took up the hobby, no longer fearing the repercussions of a damaged reputation that once faced women who smoked cigars.

Celebrities, including Demi Moore, Madonna and Whoopi Goldberg were all spotted and photographed while smoking cigars. More and more women took to smoking cigars; however, in places like the UK and US where women smoking cigars was unconventional, those that chose to smoke were seen as feminists and rebellious.


Image Credit: Shakira

With smoking bans put in place at the start of the 21st century, cigar smoking (and smoking in general) is a little less common than it once was. However, there are still many women who enjoy a stogie, including some famous faces! Rihanna, for one, has posed many times in photos and videos with a cigar in hand.

Other famous female cigar smokers include Beyoncé, the Kardashians, Ciara, Heidi Klum and Jennifer Lopez. The rise of social media has also led to an increased interest in cigar smoking, with many popular female cigar aficionados rising to prominence.


Cigar Brands Tried to Target Women

Cigar brands have also begun to try and appeal more to a female audience. Romeo y Julieta cigars, for example, released the Julieta cigar in 2011, which offered a far milder smoke for women. However, most female cigar aficionados agree that they have a preference for the same Cuban cigars that men like, and do not need a weaker cigar to enjoy a good smoke!


Are you a woman who loves cigars? Leave a comment letting us know which are your favourites!

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