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Cigar Etiquette

If you are new to the field, cigar smoking can seem like a complex and thankless task. Thousands of potential pitfalls line the way, ready to trap the unwary smoker and make him do something wrong that will expose him in front of all his fellow smokers as a cigar neophyte.
But just as there are certain rituals that must be followed when lighting and smoking a cigar (information on these can be found in our article How to Smoke a Cigar), there are a number of seemingly unwritten rules which tell you how to conduct yourself and your cigar through the difficult world of cigar etiquette.The "cigar etiquette" tips described here are recommended rules to follow for smoking cigars. Most of these are suggestions that will improve your cigar smoking experience. I have included etiquette for smoking around others as well.

Cigar Store Etiquette
Shopping for cigars has become a full-time hobby for some people. Here are some simple rules to consider following. To test for moisture, cigars must be lightly grasped. But if you squeeze them too hard, they will crack. There has been an increase in broken cigars in stores because buyers have not been gentle enough with them. Remember, cigar wrappers are fragile; treat them that way. Smelling a cigar is frowned upon in most cigar stores. It is better to test its quality by lightly grasping it - but take care to not hold it too tightly or else you'll crack it.

Cigar Band Etiquette
The band is the decorative piece of paper usually wrapped around the head of the cigar. It's sole purpose is to identify the brand. There has been debate about cigar band etiquette, as to when you should remove the band. Some people are accused of "showing-off" by leaving on the band of a well-known, expensive cigar. These people feel you should remove the band right away before smoking the cigar. Others say you should leave the band on. Who is right? The only time I remove the band before smoking a cigar is if the band is loose enough to fall off by itself. The best reason for leaving the band on is so you do not damage the delicate wrapper leaf. The glue may tear the leaf and spoil your smoking experience.
It is a rare occasion that the band falls off, but sometimes it happens. The main reason you leave the band on is so you do not harm the wrapper leaf during removal. I do not feel a person is showing off by leaving on the band of an expensive or rare cigar, or any cigar. Cigar smoking can be a very social indulgence and having the band show can make for an easy conversation starter. After you've smoked past the half-way point, the glue will have warmed from the temperature of the burning cigar and you can easily remove the band if you like. I remove the band if it gets in the way of finishing a real good cigar that I do not want to stop smoking until I burn my fingers. I also collect the cigar bands.

Putting Out & Discarding Your Cigar
If for any reason you have to put out your cigar, do not crush it out like one would a cigarette. Doing this causes it to smolder and give off a foul smell. Just let the cigar sit in the ashtray, and within approximately two minutes it will go out by itself. If you aren't finished, and want to re-light the cigar later, you must do it within an hour or the tars that collect at the end will become too bitter to enjoy the smoke. When you are finished with your cigar, it is best to discard the butt right away, as it becomes bitter and gives off a bad odor after it sits for a while.

The Uneven Burn
When you have the unfortunate occasion where your cigar burns faster down one side, you need to be careful. It can become messy with ashes falling off one side, and falling pieces of wrapper can become aflame and burn your clothes, carpet or skin. This happens when the cigar has construction flaws such as improperly bunched filler leaves. You may be able to salvage your smoke. As soon as you see the cigar start to burn unevenly, let the cigar go out in your ash tray. Knock off as much ash as possible. Slowly and carefully burn off the unburned section. Try to get the cigar back to being even and try again.

Split or Unraveling Wrapper
If you mistakenly clip your cigar too close, the wrapper may start to unravel. If this happens, try lightly moistening the end with your tongue and wrapping it back around the cigar. This usually works. You may have to do it it more than once during the smoke. If you have a split wrapper, it is because the cigar was not kept properly humidified and dried out. This makes for such an unpleasant smoke, that you should usually throw the cigar away. If you want to smoke it anyway, take the wrapper off and discard it. The cigar won't look pretty, but you will avoid the possibility of the wrapper unraveling and burning something you do not want burned.

Aging a cigar is a matter of personal taste. Some prefer fresh cigars, those rolled within the last six months Ė others will age their cigars a full five to six years before smoking them. Whatever you decide, be it 20 years or more, cigars should be kept in a controlled environment, between 70 to 72 degrees with 70 percent humidity. If different types of cigars are stored together in the same humidor, they may take on each othersí flavors. It can get expensive to purchase humidors for each of your favorite brands/types, so make sure your humidor has dividers. If you find that youíve purchased more cigars than your humidor can handle, store them in your freezer in a plastic bag or container with a lid. Two to three days before the planned smoke move them to your refrigeratorís crisper bin. An additional day in a humidor will be best. A dry cigar will burn too hot and ruin its flavor. To re-moisturize, place your cigars in a humidor that hasnít been charged in the last week for two or three days. Fill the humidification system half way and let them lay for a week before fully charging the humidity regulator; this will prevent them from getting too moist too quickly.

Smoking among Others
It is unfortunate that today's politics and loud-mouthed anti-smoking zealots have drastically reduced the places one can smoke in public. Some non-smokers can be quite obnoxious in making your business their business. However, I propose that we cigar smokers are on a higher social level and should not bring ourselves down to the zealots level. I suggest politely asking others in your company if they mind you lighting up before you do. I also suggest that you hold your ground if you are in a clearly defined smoking area and someone complains. I would do it in a logical, polite and non-emotional manner.

Smoking at Home
It's great if you can have a smoking room where you can smoke anytime at home. Of course you must be courteous to family members and have proper ventilation, especially if smoking around kids to make sure they do not inhale the smoke. Some parents do not smoke in sight of their kids so as not to influence them. I feel that if they don't see you smoking, they will see somebody else. At least you are there to explain it to them. You have to make your own rules for smoking around your kids that you feel comfortable with.
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