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Commentary: Five Cigar Facts You May Not Know

1 Aug 2013

Five cigar facts of which you may not be aware:

1. The number of people who smoke premium, hand-rolled cigars is tiny. Forget the “crowd” at your local cigar shop or how quickly a hot limited edition sells out. We’re talking hard numbers. No exact figure exists for the number of cigar smokers, but extrapolating from published data shows just what an elite group we are.

cigarstoreindianA 2002 government survey found that 2.2% of U.S. adults identified themselves as cigar smokers. The overwhelming majority of cigars sold here are machine-made, roughly 12 billion vs. 350 million premiums. (And nearly half of the 12 billion are “little cigars,” which are much more akin to cigarettes than to premium cigars.) Do the math, and feel free to round up. It’s about 6.5 million cigar smokers consuming about 12.5 billion cigars, of which fewer than 5% are premium cigars. We’ll make the fairly outrageous assumption that half of the 6.5 million are consuming both, and you’re left with 3.25 million premium cigar smokers. My belief is that it’s considerably under 2 million, which would make it about the size of the Columbus, Ohio, metro area.

2. The cigar business can be an intricate web. Consider these connections. Two of the largest U.S. cigar retailers are owned by two of the world’s largest cigar makers: Altadis, owned by Imperial Tobacco, has controlling interest in JR Cigars, and Swedish Match, owner of General Cigar, owns Cigars International. And don’t forget that Altadis is half-owner of Habanos S.A., Cuba’s tobacco monopoly.

3. Sigmund Freud almost certainly never said, “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”

4. More than a decade before Cigar Aficionado’s 1992 debut, the publisher of the magazine Screw started Cigar, a quarterly that didn’t last.

5. Germany, according to the consumer research firm Euromonitor International, is second to the U.S. as a cigar market.

-George E

photo credit: Flickr

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