Cigars: the perfect capitalist prop


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From The Times

Cigars: the perfect capitalist prop

A big cigar impels you to dispatch children up chimneys or mismanage a merchant bank

By Robert Crampton

In Seville for my cousin's wedding, I discovered that the custom in Spain is for the bride's father to hand round cigars after the reception. Thus, at about 2am, thanks to the Spanish habit of eating their evening meal in the middle of the night, I came into possession of a very decent Montecristo. Two actually, because my brother gave me his.

Three, in fact, as I ordered my son to secure one as well. Nothing better illustrates the weed-worship and machismo that still predominate in Spanish culture than that no one seemed to find an 11-year-old boy asking for a Havana at all odd.

Given that the Spanish are taking the usual relaxed attitude towards their smoking ban that Mediterranean countries reserve for European Union directives (ie, they regard the new law as a suggestion, perhaps a guideline, at best an aspiration) I was able to fire up my treat where I sat, indoors, in a public place. Coming from the law-abiding North, this felt like a revolutionary act, whereas what struck me about the whole clipping, lighting and puffing ritual is that you can't perform it without turning into a capitalist pig.

Even in tobacco-crazy Spain, where, as with golf in Scotland, cigars are devoid of some of the class connotations that they hold elsewhere, the geometry of a big cigar impels you, try as you might, to dispatch children up chimneys, mismanage a merchant bank or stroll across a country house terrace cooking up some disastrous imperialist imbroglio. Once it's down to a stub, you can do a George Patton/Tim Collins growling man of the people number, but if there is a democratic method of enjoying the first two-thirds of a cigar of any reasonable length and girth, I could not find it.

Long after the top hat and tails have been consigned to the dressing-up box of history, such is the enduring symbolism of the big cigar, I think they would be a superb way of testing the new post-Livingstone theory that it is once again cool to be posh. Get Boris chugging on a big fat Churchill, stick the picture on the front page, see what the voters make of that.

They might tolerate it now, in his honeymoon, but it would come back to haunt him, you can be sure. I can't think of anything legal - or illegal, come to that - with the same power to brand someone rich, posh and ever-so-slightly suspect as a Havana.

The cigars I smoked in Seville were my first since I was in Cuba ($4 for a top-of-the-range robusto, madness not to) 15 years ago. Strange, all the egalitarian advances in that decade and a half (first names all round, the slow death of the tie, affordable restaurants, champagne at eight quid the bottle in Tesco) and yet, thanks to the US trade boycott, the Cuban cigar continues to burn brightly as the plutocrat's prop of choice.

Having said which, I'm thinking of taking them up, see how my wife reacts to a 50-quid-a-day Cohiba habit as the recession starts to bite.

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Interesting article. Here in the UK, unfortunately there certainly is an upper class or fat-cat association with smoking cuban cigars. It is a shame really. Most people's idea of a cigar here is a henri wintermans or cafe creme. Still there are pockets of those in the know although we certainly are a rare breed.

The impression I get from films etc is that cigar smoking is much more commonplace in the States and it is much more acceptable. What about in Australia? Is it normal outside of Rob's or Ken's to see someone chomping on a cuban?

I really wish the UK had the Spanish attitude where it was not a big deal, even if you find 12 year olds chomping on pirimades.

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Interesting article. Here in the UK, unfortunately there certainly is an upper class or fat-cat association with smoking cuban cigars. It is a shame really. Most people's idea of a cigar here is a henri wintermans or cafe creme. Still there are pockets of those in the know although we certainly are a rare breed.

The impression I get from films etc is that cigar smoking is much more commonplace in the States and it is much more acceptable. What about in Australia? Is it normal outside of Rob's or Ken's to see someone chomping on a cuban?

I really wish the UK had the Spanish attitude where it was not a big deal, even if you find 12 year olds chomping on pirimades.

while i would agree that is more commonplace...we are lumped into the same category as cigaretter smokers. Our passion is less understood and we are scoffed at the moment we even bring out the cigar. I can't tell you how many times I have just been sitting outside with an unclipped/unlit cigar in my mouth and have been told to stop smoking. imagine their faces when i show them its not even burning.

people are ridiculous here. we lose our smoking rights every other day...and few and few B&M's are staying open. thank god for the few that still remain and for the fellow passionate BOTL's who keep them open

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Good Article :jester:

Having been to many Spanish weddings his portrayal is accurate. My own Spanish heritage has no doubt influenced my thinking of preferred cigar culture along with the strong Aussie egalitarian ethos I was born into and to which I hold dear.

I am never overly comfortable in deep leather chair silent Divans. I prefer mates and a bar or a boat or a camp or a fish or a shoot. We generally laugh too loud and drink too much. I and our local FOH crew quickly identify those to whom a Cigar is a status symbol (there are still a few we run across) and we politely shun them. Nothing worse than a tosser.

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What about in Australia? Is it normal outside of Rob's or Ken's to see someone chomping on a cuban?

Graham, unfortunately it is rare to see people smoking cigars in Australia. Much more popular in the USA. You do see cigarette smokers here but that is only because they are forced to the streets by indoor smoke bans. Taking a walk through the centre of Melbourne at lunchtime you would think that 50% of the population smoke cigarettes.

El Pres has covered the perception of cigar smokers here in Aus pretty well. There is a caricature in people's minds when they think of cigar smokers. I do get weary of trying to educate them but always emphasise the difference between us and cigarette smokers :D

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I do not agree much with the article, I've always considered cigars and fishing, hobbies that can make people from completely different backgrounds get together and be around a common thing that makes the equals

In the river you can be Onassis and other guy a carpinter and they are both fisherman, kids with enjoying a toy, almost the same thing happens with cigars... maybe I'm a communist after all :D

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smoking is viewed as a bad habit here in the states, but since it's not been banned everywhere you can still find bars to smoke in. just tonight i was down at the pub with some friends and, oddly enough, there were about 5-7 other cigar smokers in there.

thank goodness the owner is brittish and has no problem with it at all. it's why i love hanging out at that place. the best part is it's only about one mile from my apt.

bruce

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