A traditional product with a rich history

When Columbus and his crew first came across tobacco in Central America, they first saw it being consumed through the mouth using a form of cigar. The English word “cigar” is actually derived from the Spanish “cigarro”, which is an adaptation of the Mayan word for tobacco: “siyar”. 

Even as one of the first tobacco products imported into Europe, cigars did not catch on until the early 19th Century. But their spread among European consumers was continuous and producers all over Europe created regional production companies to accommodate cigars and cigarillos to the specific taste of their countrymen. 

This development can be seen in the city of Bünde in Germany where close to 250 cigar manufacturers were producing cigars, or in Finland at the Helsinki-based Borgström, Tollander and Klärich, and G.O. Wasenius tobacco factories as well as in Tuscany in Italy. 

Thus, locally produced cigars and cigarillos as well as imported quality cigars became a traditional product and part of the European cultural heritage. Today, European manufacturers remain world leading producers of traditional cigars and cigarillos. 

An occasional niche tobacco consumption

The European Commission’s most recent Special Eurobarometer report on ‘Attitudes of Europeans towards tobacco and electronic cigarettes’, published in February 2021, highlighted that cigar and cigarillo smokers have a specific consumer profile which sets them apart from cigarettes or other tobacco products.

The survey demonstrates:

  • Smoking cigars appears to be a characteristic of older age groups.
  • Cigar smokers tend to be older men with higher-income and well-educated background.
  • Only 1% or less of smokers in the EU consume cigarillos, cigars or pipes on a daily basis, as opposed to 69% for factory made cigarettes.
  • And, 4% of cigars or cigarillos smokers, respectively, commented that they do so less than monthly.
  • 13% of respondents stated that they had tried cigars or cigarillos only once or twice. These levels have remained stable since 2012.

These results further support the status of cigars and cigarillos as niche and “occasional” enjoyment consumer products as opposed to mass-market tobacco products.

Data provided by the Special Eurobarometer report also shows that 81% of respondents said that factory-made, boxed cigarettes had been their first experience with a tobacco product.

In contrast, only 1 to 2% of respondents said that their first experience with a tobacco product was a cigar or cigarillo, respectively. This data further underlines the status of cigar and cigarillos as a niche product, rather than a gateway for new tobacco users.

While cigars and cigarillos as tobacco products are logically regulated from a public health policy perspective, ECMA believes that policymakers should continue to ensure a balanced and pragmatic approach when regulating production, marketing and consumption of traditional cigars and cigarillos, part of the European culture and heritage.

Regulation should allow for differentiation based on consumption patterns and user profiles. The European Commission’s Eurobarometer findings demonstrated distinctions between mass consumed tobacco products and cigars and cigarillos respectively, regulation should allow the same.