A cigar is more than just a smoke. Cigar smoking has long been linked with well-known historical figures as well as modern-day celebrities. Famous cigar smokers, from Cuban leader Fidel Castro to analyst Sigmund Freud to actor and California governor Arnold Schwarzengger, have been photographed or otherwise portrayed smoking cigars so often that the cigar is part of their public personas.
Hollywood can claim famous cigar smokers going back decades, including comedian/actor Groucho Marx and TV and movie star George Burns. Today’s celebrity cigar smokers include Pierce Brosnan, Justin Bieber, William Shatner, Jay-Z and Brad Paisley.
So who was the first high-visibility cigar smoker? That’s a bit unclear. Tobacco growing originated in the Americas. Christopher Columbus found tobacco smokers when he discovered the New World, and from those first crude tobacco leaves wrapped in dried corn husks to today’s electronic cigars, cigar smoking has thrived in Europe and the Americas (it helped that Columbus claimed Cuba, the tobacco-growing paradise, for Spain).
One of the first and most famous cigar smoker’s quotes comes from King Edward VII, son of Queen Victoria of England. Ascending to the throne in 1901, he cast aside his mother’s no-smoking policies by saying, “Gentlemen, you may smoke.” Cigar smoking became quite acceptable in polite society as time went on. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, is reported to have said, “I drink a great deal. I sleep a little, and I smoke cigar after cigar. That is why I am in two-hundred-percent form.”
Actor Matthew McConaughey, featured in cigar aficionado magazine, said he likes to smoke a cigar while playing golf. He also recalls chewing on a cigar while in character for his breakout movie, A Time to Kill: “Swisher Sweets, which is what you smoke as a kid because that’s all you can afford.”
Mark Twain is among the most famous cigar smokers in U.S. history. “If smoking is not allowed in heaven, I shall not go,” is how he summed up his attitude about cigar smoking. Twain also acknowledged a downside to tobacco, saying, “It’s easy to quit smoking. I’ve done it hundreds of times.”
Would Twain have been interested in trying electronic cigars, had they been around back in the day? We’ll never know, but it will be interesting to see who takes the history of cigars to the next level with a quote about e-cigars.