By Linda Giang
The cigar industry enjoyed a glamorous five-year boom in the mid-1990s. Cigar sales increased significantly compared to previous years of stagnant growth. The art of cigar smoking became a lavish trend, mainly practiced by celebrities and the well-to-do. “Cigars were very exclusive and trendy in the 90s, and cigar events were prestigious and expensive to attend,” according to cigar enthusiast, David Alicea. And now it seems cigars are making a comeback.
The production of tobacco is a long and thoughtful process. During the 90s cigar craze, quality tobacco farmers and manufacturers, many located in Cuba, had difficulties keeping up with high demands. This created an opportunity for inferior tobacco manufacturers to flood the market with low-grade tobacco, which later led to the cigar bust in 1997.
In the years following, the cigar market slowly recovered and maintained steady sales. Markus Garcia, owner of Sky Tobacco, saw incredible profit when he started his cigar business in 2004.
“I had a 50 percent increase in sales every year up until the economy plummeted in 2007-2008, that year I had a 47 percent decrease”. He said his sales slowly increased by 10% annually after the plunge. Garcia’s observations lead him to believe that cigars are making a come back. “I’ve noticed more and more cigar shops are opening, and business is improving”.
Alicea seconds the notion of a cigar renaissance. “I think cigars are coming back in a different way with new smokers, and younger smokers,” he said.
Alicea hosts cigar events where he demonstrates how to roll, cut, and light cigars while also educating his guest about the history and different flavor profiles of tobacco. Successful turnouts and positive feedback makes him believe people are genuinely interested in learning about cigars, not just smoking it. Alicea believes this second wave of cigar fever will be different from the the 90s.
“I think that now people are attracted to cigars through its history and traditions, unlike before where people liked cigars because it was ‘in’”, he said.
Loyal fans of the stogie everywhere still hold faith that despite the Food Drug Administration‘s efforts towards tobacco restrictions, cigars will be resurrected.
“I guarantee we WILL witness another craze take place for robustos, figurados, and all shapes and sizes of hand rolled tobacco. The clamor for Cubanos will be insane as the world will see Habana leaf blended with those of other countries for the very first time. And without question, the anti-smoking psychos will burst a hell-sized aneurysm like never seen before. I’m not actually sure if that’s good or bad, but I can assure you of this: my love affair for cigars will never, ever stop”, said cigar enthusiast and online cigar magazine blogger, Tommy Zman.