Even as the cigarette and smoking becomes increasingly marginalized and looked down upon in popular culture, the cigar continues to remain a popular culture icon. While there are plenty of cigar detractors, curiously, cigars lack much of the social stigma associated with cigars. Of course, the iconoclastic stature of the cigar isn’t what it used to be, especially in the mid-20th century, but image of the cigar pursed in the lips remains strong, with continued association with historical figures ranging from the political world, to literature, film, and beyond.
The question is why has the cigar remained iconic, even well into the 21st century? While cigarettes and cigarette manufactures bear the brunt of public outrage, cigars seem to sit in the corner quietly, minding their own business. The answer is relatively simple. Marketing. Cigarette manufacturers have been targeted due to their marketing strategies, with advertisements that at one point appeared everywhere. While there are cigar advertisements, they’ve been historically fewer in number and much lower key. It’s this difference which has allowed the cigar to remain fairly untouched. This despite even the health risks of smoking that are very well-known and publicized.
Much of this too is related to how the tobacco industry at large is regulated. Many smokers have turned away from cigarettes due to increases in taxes (as well as the attached stigmas). Comparatively, taxes on cigars are much lower than on cigarettes and regulations are much more lenient. Since 2010, cigarette manufacturers have been banned from adding flavorings to their cigarettes. However, the same does not apply to cigars, which can still be sold with a variety of flavors, such as sweet or fruity flavors that appeal to more unsophisticated palates.
Another reason cigars have remained iconic is their perceived allure. Cigars are considered by many to be a much more high class experience than cigarette smoking. Cigarettes have a much greater prevalence in supermarkets, corner convenience stores, and gas stations. While cigars are readily available, they haven’t quite captured that market “mind” share. Plus, it’s an allure that exists on multiple levels, including one of sexuality (thanks, Dr. Freud). And it’s not all phallic. There’s still something sexy about puffing on a cigar that cigarette smoking has lost (again, because of the anti-smoking movement which successfully transformed the act of smoking into something to be reviled).
Though cigars are popular and remain a pop culture icon, it is interesting that we so often cite famous examples that are, quite frankly, dated. We hear about Mark Twain, Winston Churchill, Groucho Marx, Blondie (Clint Eastwood’s character from the “Dollars” trilogy aka “The Man with No Name” trilogy), and, of course, Sigmund Freud, but we rarely hear about those contemporary smokers, which exist in great number. Smoking, in general, is no longer en vogue and because of that, today’s famous smokers keep lower profiles when it comes to their smoking, though they’re not necessarily shy about it, however we’re left with fewer images of contemporary politicians, authors, and actors with cigar bombastically protruding from their mouths.