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Cigar Etiquette: Dos and Don’ts for the Refined Professional

Chris, Chief Editor

Updated Jan 24, 2024

Human experts evaluate all our content

Cigar etiquette refers to the unwritten rules and customs cigar smokers, enthusiasts, and refined professionals adhere to in a social setting for a respectful and enjoyable smoking experience.

This guide provides an in-depth look at the dos and don’ts of cigar smoking etiquette, covering everything from basic cigar skills of lighting, holding, and extinguishing a cigar to the more nuanced aspects like gifting cigars, using the right cigar accessories and how to decline a cigar offer politely.

We also detail practical advice on transporting cigars to social events, maintaining their freshness outdoors, and disposing of them properly after use.

Cigar Skills Etiquette

How should I transport my cigars to a social event?

When transporting cigars to a social event, keep them in a portable humidor if possible. This device maintains the right humidity level to preserve the cigar’s quality. You may also consider using a cigar case or tube for individual cigars. These are not only practical, but they also add a touch of elegance and sophistication to how you look and present yourself.

What’s the best way to present a cigar as a gift?

Cigar gifts are a thoughtful gesture appreciated at high-level networking events, especially if the recipient is a connoisseur. Here are some tips for doing it right:

  1. Know Their Taste: Try to find out beforehand the recipient’s preferred cigar brand, size, and strength. A thoughtful gesture like a cigar that aligns with their taste will leave a powerful first impression.
  2. Quality Over Quantity: It’s better to give a few high-quality cigars than a large number of mediocre ones.
  3. Presentation Matters: Consider a nice cigar box or a portable humidor if they don’t have one. This not only looks classy but also helps in maintaining the cigars.
  4. Include Accessories: If your budget allows, consider including a quality cigar cutter and a cigar lighter as part of the gift. Cigar cutters tend to be passed around and disappear frequently at events, so bringing a few extra cigar accessories will be appreciated by everyone attending.

What is the most popular cigar size?

The most popular cigar size is the “Robusto.” Many cigar enthusiasts favor this size due to its satisfying blend of flavor, thickness, and smoking duration. A Robusto typically measures around 5 to 5.5 inches in length with a ring gauge of 50 to 54 and a smoking session that lasts between 45 minutes to an hour.

How do you choose the right cigar for an occasion?

Choosing the right cigar for an occasion depends on the setting, audience, and length of the event and its stages.

  1. Understand the Occasion: The type of event will largely dictate your choice of cigar. A casual backyard barbecue might call for a lighter, shorter smoke, while a formal event will require a longer, more luxurious cigar.
  2. Know Your Audience: If you’re sharing cigars, consider the preferences of those who will be smoking. Novices might appreciate milder cigars, while seasoned aficionados prefer something stronger or more complex.
  3. Consider the Time: Consider if the event has multiple parts, as you might not have enough time for a longer cigar session before moving on. The length of the cigar determines how long it takes to smoke.

Why roll a cigar next to your ear?

Rolling a cigar next to your ear is a traditional method used by some seasoned cigar enthusiasts to check the quality of the cigar. The technique involves holding the cigar close to your ear while lightly rolling it between your fingers and listening.

A consistent, slight crackling indicates that the tobacco inside is well-packed and not too dry, promising a good smoke. An absence of sound or a louder noise may suggest that the cigar is either too loosely packed or overly dry.

I personally don’t do this, but practicing this might increase your likelihood of choosing the proper cigar cutter, depending on the state of the cigar.

What do you need to smoke a cigar?

To smoke a cigar, you’ll need the following items:

  1. A Cigar: Choose one that suits your taste and the occasion (quality over quantity).
  2. A Cigar Cutter: This tool creates an opening at the end of the cigar for smoking. There are several types of cutters, including guillotine, v-cutters, and punch cutters.
  3. A Cigar Lighter: Butane lighters or wooden matches are recommended to light the cigar. Avoid using lighters with a strong odor, like those that use gasoline, as they affect the cigar’s flavor.
  4. A Humidor: This is not necessary for smoking itself but essential for storing cigars either before or after a networking event to keep them at the proper humidity levels.
  5. An Ashtray: To catch the ash as you smoke the cigar, self-explanatory.

Is it better to cut or punch a cigar?

Whether to cut or punch a cigar largely depends on personal preference and the type of cigar you’re smoking. Cutting a cigar creates a larger surface area for the smoke to pass through, which opens up the draw and flavors of the cigar. On the other hand, punching a cigar creates a smaller hole, ideal for dry cigars that might run the risk of unraveling during a smoke. Punching may not be suitable for thicker cigar types if the punch cutter has a smaller ring gauge.

I use a punch cutter if I’m dealing with a dry cigar, as I found through personal experience that this works the best to keep the cigar intact. In other cases, I alternate between a guillotine and a v-cutter.

How deep do you punch a cigar?

When punching a cigar, punch deep enough to pierce the cap, which usually means about 1/8th to 1/4th of an inch. You want to create a hole that’s large enough to allow a good draw but not so deep that it risks damaging the filler of the cigar. You’ll get a feel for it after using a puncher on a few cigars.

Is it okay to cut a cigar with Regular scissors?

While it’s not ideal, you can use a sharp pair of scissors to cut a cigar in a pinch. However, this method is not recommended as it leads to an uneven cut or potentially damages the cigar. Cigar cutters are specifically designed to give a clean, precise cut, and there are both cigar cutters and cigar scissors available for purchase. If you must use regular scissors, make sure they are sharp, and make a quick, decisive cut to minimize potential damage.

Is it OK to cut a cigar in half?

Cutting a cigar in half is not ok, as cigars are handcrafted with a specific blend of tobacco designed to provide a unique flavor profile from start to finish. Cutting a cigar in half disrupts this blend and ruins the cigar anatomy. If you have a larger cigar and not enough time to enjoy it, consider smoking it in two sessions instead of cutting it in half.

Why do cigars have bands, and should you remove them before smoking?

Cigar bands serve both a practical and a decorative purpose. Historically, they were introduced in the 19th century to prevent tobacco from staining the gloves of upper-class cigar smokers’. Today, cigar bands primarily serve as a branding tool, displaying the cigar manufacturer’s logo or the cigar’s name.

You should not remove the band before smoking to avoid the risk of damaging the cigar wrapper due to the small amount of glue that holds the band in place. If you choose to remove it, it’s best to do so once the cigar has warmed up a bit. The heat will loosen the band’s adhesive, making it easier to remove without damaging the cigar. Others prefer to leave it on as a form of brand recognition or simply because they like the look of it.

If you discover a new type of cigar you’ve never smoked before, then make sure to save the band for later for a perfect reminder of the brand.

Which end of a cigar or cigarillo do you light?

For a cigar, you light the “foot” of the cigar, which is the pre-cut end that is not wrapped or sealed with a cap. The other end, where you’ll place your mouth, is called the “head” and is the end that you cut with a cigar cutter. This end usually has the cigar band close to it.

A cigarillo is usually pre-cut on both ends. A smaller diameter, like a cone, represents the head on which you place your mouth. The foot gets the flame, and the head gets the taste!

Do you light both ends of a cigar?

No, you do not light both ends of a cigar, only the foot of the cigar. Lighting both ends of a cigar would not only make it impossible to smoke but also ruin the cigar’s construction and flavor.

Is it okay to light or smoke a cigar from the wrong end?

It is not okay to light or smoke a cigar from the wrong end as you’ll be smoking the cigar backward. The cigar is designed to be smoked in a specific direction for optimal flow, flavor, and enjoyment.

Where do you put your mouth on a cigar?

You put your mouth on the cut end of the cigar. The head is designed to be placed in the mouth, allowing you to draw the smoke from the lit end, or the foot, through the cigar and into your mouth.

Do you hold cigar with teeth?

Holding a cigar with your teeth can lead to excessive salivation that dampens the cigar and affects the burn and taste. Instead, hold the cigar between your index fingers and thumb. This allows for a more comfortable and enjoyable experience.

How often should I puff a cigar?

When learning how to smoke a cigar, it’s recommended to take a puff every minute or so for an even burn and a steady pace to keep the cigar lit. Puffing too often causes the cigar to burn too hot, which leaves a weird and bitter taste in your mouth—inversely, puffing too slowly leads to the cigar going out and forcing you to re-light it. This is not an issue but you’ll learn the proper pacing through experience.

How hard should you puff a cigar?

When smoking a cigar, you should puff gently, drawing the smoke into your mouth without inhaling. Puffing too hard causes the cigar to burn too hot, altering the taste and potentially ruining the smoking experience.

Should you double-puff a cigar?

Double-puffing a cigar is generally not recommended. Double-puffing can cause the cigar to burn too hot but it can be used if the cigar is starting to go out. It’s best to take your time smoking, enjoy the flavors, and puff slowly and evenly to maintain the ideal burn temperature.

Why do they say not to inhale cigars?

Cigars are not meant to be inhaled like cigarettes. The primary reason is that cigar smoke is much heavier and richer than cigarette smoke, making it harsh and potentially harmful if inhaled into the lungs. You’ll definitely cough if you try, and you might even feel nauseous and taste an unpleasantly strong taste that lingers on.

Why can’t you swallow cigar smoke?

Swallowing cigar smoke is highly discouraged. Unlike food or drink, smoke is not meant to be ingested into the digestive system. It’s best to enjoy the flavors of a cigar by puffing and letting the smoke linger in your mouth before exhaling.

Will I get a buzz from a cigar?

Yes, it’s possible to get a “buzz” or light-headed feeling from smoking a cigar, especially for those new to cigar smoking or if you’re smoking a cigar with a high nicotine content. Cigar smoking is primarily about savoring the flavors and aroma, not for the purpose of a nicotine buzz. If you do start to feel light-headed or dizzy, it’s best to take a break and drink some water.

How should a lady hold a cigar?

A lady should hold a cigar much the same way as anyone else would – between the index finger and the thumb for a comfortable and firm grip. The key to cigar etiquette is to hold the cigar lightly and avoid clenching it between the fingers.

Is it polite to offer or share a cigar with someone else?

Yes, it is considered polite and a sign of camaraderie to offer a cigar to someone else, especially at social events or gatherings where cigar smoking is a part of the occasion. It’s not customary to pass or share a single cigar around like one might do with a hookah. Each person should have their own cigar.

How do you politely decline a cigar offer?

If you want to decline a cigar offer politely, you can simply say, “Thank you for the offer, but I’ll pass this time.” It’s perfectly acceptable to decline. If you want to provide a reason, you could say that you’ve already had enough for the day or that you’re just taking a break from smoking cigars. You should never feel pressured to accept a cigar if you don’t want to.

What should you do if your cigar goes out in the middle of a conversation?

If your cigar goes out in the middle of a conversation, don’t fret! It’s perfectly normal for a cigar to extinguish if it’s not puffed on regularly. When this happens, simply pause or listen to the conversation while relighting your cigar. These are the steps on how to relight a cigar correctly.

  1. Tap Out the Ash: Gently tap the cigar in an ashtray to remove the ash from the end.
  2. Blow Out: Blow gently on the end of the cigar to remove any lingering ash and stale smoke.
  3. Relight: Using your lighter or match, hold the flame to the foot of the cigar (the end you light) and rotate it to ensure an even burn, especially around the edges. Draw on the cigar while lighting it to help it relight.
  4. Resume Conversation: Once your cigar is lit, you can return to your conversation.

What drinks pair well with cigars at a social event?

The best pairing of cigars and drinks is a matter of personal preference. These are the most popular pairings.

  1. Whiskey: Whiskey, particularly single malt Scotch and bourbon, is a classic pairing for cigars. The rich, complex flavors of whiskey match the intensity of a full-bodied cigar and bring out subtle flavors.
  2. Rum: Rum, especially aged rum, has a natural sweetness that complements the flavors of a cigar, making it an excellent pairing option.
  3. Coffee: A strong coffee or espresso is a great match for a morning cigar or a mild flavor profile.
  4. Port or Red Wine: A full-bodied red wine or a sweet port balances the robust flavors of a strong cigar.

Are there specific foods that complement or clash with cigar flavors?

Dark chocolate, with its rich and slightly bitter taste, pairs well with full-bodied cigars. The cocoa in the chocolate brings out the earthy flavors of the tobacco.

Strong, aged cheeses like gouda or cheddar can stand up to a robust cigar. The creaminess of the cheese balances the spiciness of some cigars.

The smoky flavor of grilled or barbecued meats pairs well with a full-bodied cigar, especially if the meat is seasoned with bold spices.

Foods that clash with cigar flavors are light, delicate, or highly spiced and acidic. Similarly, overly sweet or dessert-like foods may not pair well, as they can make the tobacco taste bitter in comparison. Figs filled with unsalted butter pair better as the creaminess of the combination reduces the sweetness.

How do you keep a cigar fresh during an outdoor event?

Keeping a cigar fresh during an outdoor event is challenging due to humidity, temperature, and wind. Follow these tips to keep your cigar in optimal condition.

  1. Use a Travel Humidor: A travel humidor is a portable device that maintains the right humidity level to preserve the cigar’s quality. Perfect for outdoor events where the weather conditions might change on a whim.
  2. Keep the Cigar Wrapped: If you don’t have a humidor, keep the cigar in its cellophane wrapper until you’re ready to smoke it. The wrapper will provide some level of protection against the elements.
  3. Avoid Direct Sunlight: Direct sunlight dries out a cigar quickly, so preferably keep your cigars in a shaded area or inside your inner suit pocket.

How do you extinguish a cigar if you can’t finish smoking?

If you find yourself unable to finish a cigar, extinguish it properly by just leaving the cigar in the ashtray, resting on its side. It will naturally go out on its own within a few minutes.

Unlike cigarettes, you should never stub a cigar out in an ashtray as this will cause the cigar to smolder, creating an unpleasant smell in the area. A good cigar deserves a respectful end, especially the most expensive cigars.

What are the safety precautions to consider when smoking cigars at crowded events?

When smoking cigars at crowded events, keep these key precautions in mind.

  1. Location: Always smoke in designated smoking areas. Not only is this respectful to non-smokers, but it also reduces the risk of accidental fires.
  2. Respect Personal Space: Be mindful of others around you. Keep a reasonable distance when smoking to prevent your smoke from affecting others.
  3. Proper Handling: Hold your cigar properly to prevent dropping hot ashes on yourself or others.

How do you properly dispose of a cigar after an event?

Follow these steps for proper disposal of a cigar after an event.

  1. Let it go out naturally: Once you’ve finished smoking, simply place your cigar in an ashtray and let it go out on its own. Do not stub it out like a cigarette.
  2. Wait for it to cool down: After the cigar has gone out, leave it in the ashtray for a few minutes to cool down. Picking up a hot cigar stub can lead to accidental burns.
  3. Dispose of it properly: Once the cigar stub has cooled down, it should be disposed of in a trash receptacle. Be sure the stub is completely out before throwing it away to prevent any risk of fire.

Is it appropriate to take home cigars from a social event?

If the host has provided cigars for guests to enjoy during the event and there are extras left over, it’s generally acceptable to ask if you can take one or two cigars home, especially if you’ve enjoyed them. However, it’s important not to assume that you can take cigars without asking, as this is seen as disrespectful. Being polite and respectful goes a long way when networking with high-value men.

Can you smoke half a cigar and save it for later?

Yes, you can smoke half a cigar and save the rest for later. The quality and taste of the cigar are not the same when you relight it. If you decide to save a half-smoked cigar, let it extinguish on its own, then store it in a separate container to prevent the odor from affecting other cigars. It’s best to finish the cigar in the next 24 hours to enjoy its flavors fully.

Can a cigar be smoked twice?

Yes, a cigar can technically be smoked twice, but it’s not typically recommended. When you relight a cigar that has been out for more than a day or a significant amount of time, it often leads to a bitter taste. The reason for this is that the oils and tar from the tobacco leaves, which were heated and released during the initial smoking, have had time to cool and solidify. When reheated, these give off a bitter flavor.

I know it’s painful not to finish an expensive cigar, but to be honest, the taste will not be the same the second time around.

How to store a half-smoked cigar?

To store a half-smoked cigar, remove the ash after the cigar has been extinguished and gently tap off any remaining ash from the end. Store the half-smoked cigar separately from your other cigars in a cigar tube or cigar bag. This will help to contain the odor and protect the cigar. Try to finish the cigar within 24 hours. The longer a half-smoked cigar sits, the more the taste will deteriorate.

When to put out a cigar?

You should put out a cigar about two-thirds or three-quarters of the way smoked or when it becomes too hot for your taste. If a cigar starts to leave a bitter taste in your mouth, it’s a clear sign that it’s time to put it out. Another indication is when the smoke becomes too hot. If you notice the heat of the smoke increasing, it’s likely time to end your smoking session.

Can you smoke a cigar past the sticker?

Yes, you can smoke a cigar past the band or “sticker,” as it has no significance on the flavor or that the cigar is finished; it’s a matter of your personal experience and preference. If the cigar or the smoke is not too hot for your taste, you can keep going.

What not to do when smoking a cigar?

When smoking a cigar, there are a few things you should avoid doing for proper cigar etiquette and showing respect to those around you.

  1. Don’t Inhale: As mentioned previously, cigars are not meant to be inhaled. Instead, draw the smoke into your mouth and savor the flavor before exhaling.
  2. Don’t Light It Too Fast: Take your time when lighting a cigar. If you light it too quickly, you risk burning the wrapper or an uneven burn.
  3. Don’t Stub Out Your Cigar: When you’re finished smoking, don’t stub out your cigar like a cigarette. Instead, let it go out on its own.
  4. Don’t Smoke Too Quickly: If you smoke it too quickly, it overheats and spoils the taste.
  5. Don’t Dip Your Cigar in Whisky: While it might seem like a good idea to enhance the flavor, dipping a cigar in alcohol actually ruins the cigar and makes it difficult to smoke.
  6. Don’t Hold the Cigar in Your Mouth: A cigar isn’t something you walk around with in your mouth (although it looks cool). Hold it and bring it to your mouth when you’re ready to puff.

Should you wet a cigar?

No, you should not wet a cigar before smoking it. The ideal humidity for a cigar is between 65-72% humidity, which is typically achieved by storing the cigars in a humidor. If a cigar feels too dry before smoking, it’s recommended to place it in a humidor for a few days to reintroduce moisture slowly.

How do you ensure you’re not causing discomfort to others with your cigar smoke?

Smoking cigars, while a personal pleasure, can cause discomfort to others around you due to the smoke produced. Here are some tips to ensure you’re not causing any discomfort:

  1. Use a Smoke Purifier: If you are in a private setting or at home, consider using a smoke purifier to minimize the smoke in the air.
  2. Ask Before Lighting Up: If you’re in a social setting, it’s always polite to ask the people around you if they mind before you light your cigar.
  3. Direction of the Smoke: Pay attention to the direction of the wind and position yourself so that the smoke doesn’t blow into other people’s faces.

What is proper cigar etiquette?

Cigar etiquette is a set of unwritten rules that cigar enthusiasts follow to ensure a pleasant and respectful smoking experience. Cigar etiquette is key if your goal is to network with refined professionals and high-networth individuals (HNWI).

The most important rules you should keep in mind are listed below.

  1. Ask Before Lighting Up: If you’re in a public setting or around others, always ask before lighting your cigar. Not everyone appreciates the smell of cigar smoke.
  2. Hold the Cigar Properly: Hold the cigar between your index finger and thumb. Avoid holding it like a cigarette.
  3. Don’t Stub Out the Cigar: When you’re finished, place the cigar in the ashtray and let it go out naturally. Stubbing it out creates an unpleasant smell.
  4. Avoid ‘Cigar Comparisons’: It’s considered poor taste to compare your cigar’s size or price to others.
  5. Don’t Relight Too Often: If your cigar goes out frequently, it might be a sign you’re not smoking it correctly. Constant relighting of the cigar shows inexperience and a tell-tale sign of unprofessionalism amongst HNWIs.
  6. Don’t Remove the Band Immediately: Removing the band from a cigar can introduce small cracks and unravel the cigar. Check if it’s loose first, or wait until the heat comes closer to the band before removing it.

What is bad cigar etiquette?

Bad cigar etiquette includes actions that are disrespectful or inconsiderate to others, such as blowing smoke in others’ faces, stubbing out your cigar, talking with a cigar in your mouth, repeatedly putting your fingers in your mouth to remove cigar debris due to a bad cut, and chewing on your cigar.

Should you walk and smoke a cigar?

While it is not prohibited to walk and smoke a cigar, it’s generally not recommended. Walking while smoking can cause you to puff more frequently, leading to a hotter burn.

Where is it appropriate to smoke a cigar, especially in public settings?

In public settings, it is appropriate to smoke a cigar in designated smoking areas, usually marked and separate from general public areas. Outdoor events, golf courses, some cigar shops, a cigar lounge, a cigar bar, and confined indoor cigar smoking areas are common places to smoke a cigar.

Chris Starkhagen MSc.

Entrepreneur and Founder of chrisstarkhagen.com

Chris writes for men about what to know and how to be a high-value man and networking with high-net-worth individuals. Chris guides readers on men’s business, men’s home office, men’s performance, men’s accessories, and the best products for men to craft a timeless style. Whether you’re already a high net-worth man seeking your next luxury watch or a young G who wants a lifestyle upgrade, Chris connects men with the resources needed to elevate life as a man.