Nowadays, we practically take the modern cigar industry for granted. Never before has it been so easy to find exactly what we’re looking for, at the price we’re comfortable spending, with minimal effort to track it down. But, as any aficionado will tell you, the cigar industry’s history is rich with twists, turns, and innovations that have changed our relationship with tobacco forever.
How the Cigar Industry Has Evolved Over the Last Century
Once upon a time, the cigar industry consisted of a small number of factories in Europe that had Cuban tobacco imported, and thus, distributed mainly to wealthy individuals. Around the same time, the tobacco trade was just beginning to emerge in America, with special interest in Virginia and Connecticut, where climate and soil proved to be ideal for growing fine tobacco crops.
Since then, the industry has grown, changed, and evolved to become what it is today. Historical events throughout the past century have played a major role in how the cigar market has become what it is, particularly during the Great Depression and Cuban Embargo, when many leading cigar manufacturers had to flee to the United States just as our country was facing the sharpest economic downturn of its life.
But, one thing that we’ve seen throughout history is that cigar makers will always find a way, and consumers will always maintain enough demand to enable the market to thrive.
Let’s take a look at some of the ways in which the cigar industry has changed dramatically in the last 100 years, both for those who consume them, and those who sell them.
Needless to say, today’s cigar enthusiasts can choose from a greater selection than ever before. Over the last 100 years, more and more manufacturers have emerged to make their mark on the prestigious industry of cigar-making. While legendary brand Arturo Fuente recently celebrated 100 years of business, it’s easy to forget that some of the most iconic brands in history are less than a century old, like Ashton, Acid, Drew Estate, and many more.
With each new cigar brand emerging comes a richer choice of tobaccos, wrappers, and other factors that separate one cigar from the rest. This has allowed cigar connoisseurs to find exactly what’s going to satisfy them, while also helping them build their palates by getting exposed to more varieties.
Another thing that has benefited both smokers and manufacturers alike is greater accessibility to their products. 100 years ago, your only option for buying cigars was to visit a tobacconist in your area. And, if you didn’t live in an era that had one, you were out of luck. Because of this, the cigar industry was more closely associated with the wealthy, who happened to live in areas where cigar stores were more likely to exist – especially in prominent metropolitan areas, like New York City and London, and so on.
Nowadays, a cigar enthusiast has an endless array of options when it comes to how they’d like to buy their cigars. They can still visit cigar shops, and even enjoy a more intimate shopping experience. They can also go to a distributor chain that’s in their local area, which carries a much broader selection of brands. Or, they can order cigars online, which has had the biggest impact on accessibility.
From a brand’s standpoint, this is a bonus as well. Being able to sell cigars online gives each retailer more visibility, as they’re no longer selling only to their local clientele. Because of this, brands, as well as distributors, are able to earn a lot more money, which plays a major role in keeping the industry alive.
More Advanced Manufacturing TechniquesHow cigars are manufactured has also changed. Demand continued growing through the 20th Century, which enabled a wide variety of innovations that allowed companies to mass-produce cigars on a large scale. Many of the original brands invested in larger facilities that used machinery rather than human labor to produce consistent quality in high quantities.
In fact, it was around the time of the Great Depression when machine-made cigars began to become accepted. Demand for cigars went down, as did all consumer goods, and that incentivized cigar manufacturers to find more economical ways to keep their doors open. While a number of factories shut down entirely, those that did survive modernized through the use of new and innovative machinery in order to cut down on labor costs. To this day, machine-made cigars allow for larger product output, to satisfy growing demand. At the same time, there are a number of highly respected brands that continue to roll by hand, and are rewarded with a prestigious reputation for their commitment to the old methods.
A Wider Variety of Price Points
We already touched upon the higher level of accessibility in the cigar world today, mainly through more outlets of distribution, including online retail. But, there’s another aspect of the industry that has made cigars more accessible, which is price. With more money-saving innovations through technological advancements in machinery, we see a wider spectrum of price points while we shop for cigars. Companies that sell more affordable cigars are able to appeal to a very specific demographic in order to stay in business, while there remains a luxury cigar industry that attracts a different type of clientele.
Changes in Laws
One thing that is easy to forget is that the last 100 years have seen changes in tobacco-related legislature. In 1883, the first smoking age-related law was passed in the United States, in New Jersey, where for the first time, only those 16 and older could legally purchase tobacco. Over the last century, states have each enacted their own laws regarding the minimum age requirement. Cigars never appealed to minors in the way that cigarettes do, but regardless, harsher tobacco regulation has impacted the industry nonetheless.
At the same time, particularly in the early 21st century, more and more states began regulating where tobacco products can be used. Many states have banned indoor smoking in public spaces altogether, while states have also banned smoking cigars and other tobacco products in certain outdoor public settings, like public parks, beaches, and areas adjacent to schools.
Better Care at Home
From a consumer perspective, how we possess cigars has changed. Think of all of the portable, user-friendly, and affordable humidors that we have at our disposal today, which has allowed us to collect more cigars, have them in our possession for longer, and even alter them in subtle ways to bring out different qualities in tobacco. It’s easy to forget that humidors and other accessories weren’t really available to the general public until the beginning of the 1900s. Even then, and for the earlier decades of the century, you had to make a good amount of money in order to get one of high quality. Now, they’re more affordable, and many rely on advanced technology to maintain perfect humidity, with digital components that offer accuracy and consistency.
For Sellers and Smokers Alike, the Cigar Industry Has Changed Dramatically in 100 Years
Without a doubt, the cigar industry of 100 years ago is not like the cigar industry of today. In just about every way, the market has changed dramatically, from how we purchase our cigars to how we store them, and of course, how they’re made.
But, when you really get down to it, what hasn’t changed is the passion that enthusiasts and manufacturers alike share for the art of cigar-making. And, at no point in history has the original formula for the perfect cigar been modified. What that tells us that the tradition of cigar-making is something that’s sacred, and that the originators of the industry knew exactly what they were doing.If you want to explore a variety of top-rated cigars, check out our selection at BnB Tobacco, which carries brands both old and new, and has allowed cigars to be more accessible to the general public than ever before.