How to smoke your first cigar

by Elliot Boudin on January 3, 2011

You’ve picked out your very first cigar (a task in itself!) and now it’s time for the big moment – your first cigar smoke.

But how do you actually smoke a cigar?

Here are some suggestions to help you make the most of your initial cigar smoking experience. Don’t worry if it doesn’t go perfectly – cigar smoking takes practice, like everything else.

  • If you don’t have your own humidor (proper storage), you generally need to smoke your cigar within 12-24 hours of purchasing it. As a matter of etiquette if you’re in public, you may want to consider removing the band first. This rule varies by location but seems to hold in the US. Removing the band is easiest after you light the cigar since the heat softens up the adhesive. The cigar should be held between your thumb and index finger.
  • Generally cigars have two ends, one opened, one closed with a cap. The capped end is called the head – this is the end you smoke from. The open end is called the foot. This is the end you light. The cap will need to be removed before you smoke. If you’re at the tobacconist, you can ask them to do it for you or show you how to do it yourself – if you cut too close you’ll end up clogging the draw, if you cut too far, your cigar can fall apart. There are many tools you can use to assist you in cutting off the cap, primarily a guillotine cutter you can purchase for a couple of dollars.
  • It is best to smoke on a full stomach. If you like, you can smoke with a drink – this can contribute to the experience.
  • You can light a cigar with pretty much anything, but some people find gas lighter can influence the taste. Matches are a surer bet.
  • Be patient while lighting your cigar. Hold the cigar horizontally either in direct contact with the flame or just short of direct contact. Rotate the foot of the cigar around the flame (or the flame around the foot) so that you get a nice, even burn, and puff lightly. Do not inhale into your lungs – the smoke is too strong and can cause you to get dizzy and nauseous. Instead inhale into your mouth.
  • Let your cigar cool off for a minute or so and then puff every 30 or 90 seconds to ensure the cigar neither goes out nor overheats. There’s no need to tip the ash off all the time; the highest quality smokes can hold as much as an inch of ash. It’s both poor etiquette and unnecessary to force the ash off – it can also result in you losing the evenness of your burn.
  • To correct an uneven burn, rotate your cigar so that the slow-burning section is on the bottom. If your cigar goes out, immediately blow through it to clear it of the old smoke. If you don’t do this, the flavor can become stale. Shake off the excess ash and focus on relighting the edges of the wrapper. This should cause the whole cigar to combust again.
  • When should you end your smoke? Either quit when the cigar becomes too strong for your palate and develops an unpleasant aftertaste or when your fingers start to feel like they’re burning. This is usually around the last two inches of your smoke. There’s no need to smash the end into an ashtray; you can just set it down and wait for it to go out on its own.
  • Don’t wait too long to throw out the cigar; old tobacco can leave a stale odor. Make sure it’s completely out before you throw it in the trash.

Good luck, and enjoy your first cigar!

About Elliot Boudin

has written 54 posts in this blog.

Elliot writes extensively about how to find the best cigars and wholesale pipe tobacco online from Vienna, VA. He carries forward the fourth generation of cigar enthusiastists in the Boudin family.

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