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Commentary: Cigar Smoking Competitions Are Absurd

8 Jan 2018

Last Wednesday, an article appeared in the Wall Street Journal about “competitive slow smokers,” or cigar enthusiasts who compete to keep a cigar lit as long as possible. Yes, that’s a real thing.

At events from “Chicago to Croatia,” these devotees use tactics like “gentle puffs, moist palms, [and] strategic ashing” to prolong their cigar experiences to the point of near impossibility, all with hopes of prizes and recognition within the (apparently) growing community of competitors.

The rules for these competitions seem as simple as they are laughable. After each contestant receives his or her cigar—each five inches in length—they have exactly one minute to cut it any way they like. They then have one minute to light, with no re-lighting allowed thereafter. Contestants may not put their cigars down, nor blow on them. And, according to the article, “competitors must also refrain from talking during the first five minutes to maintain a proper air of decorum.”

Wondering about the world record? Look no further than Tomasz Żołądkiewicz, a cigar smoker from Poland. It is said Mr. Żołądkiewicz made a robusto last three hours and twenty-six minutes. This is “an achievement many in the slow-smoking community speak about with the same awe that others have reserved for the great athletic benchmarks of the past century, like running a mile in under four minutes.” Oh, brother.

If you’re like me, you’ve heard of these competitions before—usually when a once-every-so-often article runs profiling a “winner” of a particular event—but otherwise pay them little attention. But I don’t recall a higher profile news placement than this recent Wall Street Journal piece (and accompanying video). So I feel compelled to share my thoughts on the matter.

As I wrote a decade ago, it’s important to smoke slowly. Cigar enjoyment is not a race, and there is no prize for finishing first. Additionally, in order to “cook” the tobacco at the right temperature, you should try to limit the frequency of your puffs to prevent the smoke from becoming too hot or harsh. When you puff, you’re caramelizing the sugars in the tobacco to bring out the unique flavors; it’s important to not overheat the oven.

That said, personally, I just don’t get these cigar competitions. The very concept seems to run against everything a cigar is trying to achieve—relaxation, enjoyment, flavor, camaraderie with fellow cigar enthusiasts, etc. I look to cigars to help me escape from stress; I’m not expecting to win anything, other than my own enjoyment.

To be clear, I’m not advocating a ban of these voluntary events. If you host, participate in, or enjoy following smoking competitions, be my guest.

But I have a right to call these competitions absurd. And, yes, they are absurd.

Patrick A

photo credit: Flickr

4 Responses to “Commentary: Cigar Smoking Competitions Are Absurd”

  1. John Pirani Monday, January 8, 2018 at 9:25 am #

    Personally, I agree. Cigar smoking as a competition misses the mark for me. On the other hand, in times when cigar smoking is treated with disdain by many, what’s the harm in some enthusiasts engaging in some harmless fun? I don’t race cars, but I drive every day. I don’t get drunk, but I like (love) single malt Balvenie. (I think you see my point) Maybe those of us who enjoy a lovely smoke on occasion can be accepting enough to accept quirkiness in others. My guess is some non-smokers judge even our more conventional tobacco aficionados in ways we wish they wouldn’t. No harm here…. therefore no foul.

  2. Dan H Monday, January 8, 2018 at 10:23 pm #

    I know slow-smoking competitions are popular with pipe smokers. Usually, they’re part of some type of group gathering, and they usually offer some prize. I guess some people make a hobby out of it, but I suspect most competitions are a part of events where the rest of the time is devoted to enjoying cigars normally.

    So, why not? It’s not my thing, but I’d be willing to give it a try for charity or for a good prize.

  3. Stan Walker Monday, January 8, 2018 at 10:52 pm #

    I also agree, pretty silly. But, it ain’t hurting anyone, what the hell. Puff away. If it generates more interest in cigars, that’s a good thing.

  4. Patrick A Tuesday, January 9, 2018 at 10:51 am #

    John, Dan, and Stan —

    Thank you for your comments.

    As I wrote above: “To be clear, I’m not advocating a ban of these voluntary events. If you host, participate in, or enjoy following smoking competitions, be my guest.”

    No harm, no foul. True. I am just stating my own personal opinion, which is, while harmless, these silly events strike me as ridiculous and seem to run counter to the main purpose cigars are aiming to achieve. That’s all.

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