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Confessions of a (Female) Cigar Smoker

Friday, 28 Jan 2011 | 10:08 AM ET
Nicole Lapin in
Source: Cigar Aficionado
Nicole Lapin in

I don’t have a whole lot in common with Fidel Castro.

Not a ton with Winston Churchill, Rush Limbaugh, Milton Berle, Mark Twain and Bill Cosby, either. Save, of course, a penchant for cigar smoke.

In my case, it’s recreational, nowhere near the occupational predilection of history’s most recognizable cigar-wielding rebels and icons.

“A woman is only a woman, but a good cigar is a smoke,” one of my favorite poets, Rudyard Kipling, penned in his short story “The Betrothed.”

Close, Mr. Kipling, but no cigar. Cigars, for better or worse, link us all, this woman included.

Certainly, I am not the only one. Cigar Aficionado Magazine featured me this month, as one of a long list of women who have gender-bent the pages before: Madonna, Sharon Stone, Demi Moore, Veronica Webb.

Webb, the BBC journalist and model, said: "It's fascinating to see a woman with a cigar because it's about staking a claim. And, it often takes people off guard."

Off guard? Perhaps in the days of Kipling. But, today, cigars don’t signify the same male-bonding machismo.

“Women feel confident, more powerful and feel more control of themselves when they have a cigar in their hand,” Mauricio Cordoba, General Manager of Club Macanudo, one New York’s premier cigar lounges, tells me, noting a 15 percent increase in female smokers since 2008.

The U.S. is the top cigar consuming country by far, followed by Germany and the UK; the U.S. and Western Europe account for about 75 percent of cigar sales worldwide.

But, I must say, Europeans are much more laissez-faire about the whole thing. Living in Paris, I used to get asked if I wanted a cigar at lunch. Mais, oui! I haven’t been to The World Economic Forum in Davos, but I’m hearing the same thing from my female colleagues out of there this week.

“Cigars have a history, and now we’re seeing more of the younger, female generation getting into it,” Cordoba says of the changing face of Club Mac's cigar smokers who go there to enjoy good times and conversation that typically stays tucked within the signature tufted oxblood couches.

What happens in these smoky lounges isn’t a secret—it’s just nostalgia, camaraderie and finding idiosyncratic common ground.

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