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The Century's Greatest Cigar Smokers

| By Gordon Mott , Marvin R. Shanken | From Vince McMahon, Nov/Dec 99

As the twentieth century draws to a close, we take great pleasure in honoring some of the greatest cigar smokers of the past 100 years. It's gratifying to do so, because they represent some of this century's most prominent politicians, entertainers, athletes, artists, writers and businessmen. Some of our choices are obvious, such as Winston Churchill and John F. Kennedy, while others, such as Paul Anka or John Grisham, may not be quite as closely identified with cigars.  

Perhaps more important is the fact that we still have the opportunity to honor these people. The antitobacco frenzy in America has recently reached a new level of intensity; in the past two years, cigars have been under harsher scrutiny than ever before. With this list, we highlight the many prominent people who have understood the joys of a great, premium hand-rolled cigar.  

What did these cigar smokers know? They knew that cigars were a pleasure that enhanced their lives. Most of our honorees weren't heavy smokers like Winston Churchill and George Burns, who smoked more than 10 cigars a day. (Yet it should be noted that Churchill lived to 90 and Burns celebrated his 100th birthday.) Most smoked in moderation to achieve a level of relaxation that they couldn't find with anything else.  

Moderate smoking is a crucial factor overlooked by the antitobacco activists. After successfully vilifying cigarettes, they are now trying to lump cigars with cigarettes and chewing tobacco, ignoring the vast differences between the way these products are manufactured and used. When you impose that kind of blanket condemnation on cigars, you ignore the truth that people use cigars differently than other tobacco products.  

The facts are quite simple. In recent surveys of cigar smokers on Cigar Aficionado Online--with more than 200,000 registered users, it's the largest database of cigar-smoking behavior in the world--more than 90 percent reported that they smoke at a rate of one cigar a day or less, and nearly 65 percent smoke fewer than three a week. More than 90 percent do not inhale. Moreover, cigars are clearly an adult product. Cigar manufacturers do not create products for teenagers and do not advertise to underage smokers. While many young men in their 20s and 30s have discovered cigars in recent years, the majority of cigar smokers are over age 35.  

The reality is that cigars don't create the kind of compulsive addictions that other tobacco products may cause. Many regular cigar smokers often go days or weeks without smoking at all. Furthermore, as we have said many times on this page, everyone knows that smoking a cigar is not risk-free. But cigar lovers believe that the relaxation and enjoyment of smoking a fine cigar outweigh the risks, and as adults, they have the right to freely make that choice. Even some top health officials acknowledge that all the scientific studies they have used to condemn cigars--including the most recent Surgeon General's report--focus on people who smoke five cigars a day or more. They also admit that no good statistics exist regarding the effects of smoking one cigar a day or less.  

Our Top 100 list pays homage to the men and women who understand cigars and their role in a person's life. Some of our choices may surprise you. We chose people not only for their fame or notoriety, but for what we know about their devotion to cigars. If we missed any of your favorites, let us know, and enjoy our tribute to a century of cigars.  

Marvin R. Shanken Editor & Publisher  
Gordon Mott Executive Editor