No matter the family, no matter the region, mob bosses are always depicted as puffing away on cigars. Some have suggested that this was a form of stress relief, as smoking forces you to control and regulate your breathing. However, the same effect could be achieved for a much lower cost by smoking cigarettes. So then why cigars? Why pay more money for the same effect?
Simply put, the smoking of these cigars was to send a message. The cigar communicated the level of power the individual held. The finer the cigar, the higher the cost. The higher the cost, the more powerful the individual. Cuban Cigars were considered a decadence, a quality smoke that burned slow and produced a thick, heavy smoke. These cigars needed to be imported, thus adding to their rarity and cost. A man smoking these cigars was certainly a man of power, the kind of man who had the money and time to spend smoking a cigar.
Unlike any other smoke, a cigar takes up time. While the size of the cigar will impact how long it will take to smoke, bigger cigars can take over an hour to smoke. In a world where time is money, taking the time to puff away at a cigar is a luxury only those who have time on their hands can afford. Obviously, the Boss of the family has the most time on his hands, having dozens, if not hundreds, of men beneath him to do the dirty work.
Furthermore, the crime families usually owned and operated social clubs as a legitimate business front to launder their money. At these meetings, various members of the family would gather to discuss business. During these meetings, the individuals present would all be smoking cigars. These meetings became a proverbial “pissing contest”, where the men seated around the table would judge the quality of the cigar. At these meetings there were no machine-made domestic tobacco blends in fruit flavored wrappers to be found. Rather, the cigars were hand rolled Cubans, with a blend of the finest tobaccos in the region. These cigars are rich and aromatic, full-flavored but never harsh. The competition became about who would have the most expensive cigar and whose statement was made the loudest.
To the mob families, smoking a cigar was never about a hobby, or stress relief, the cigar was an exhibition of status and power.