By William Henry July 20, 2022

Cigars are a classic and elegant indulgence, used for celebration and enjoyment since before the 1400s. While it looks simple enough, there is so muchtradition involved in smoking cigars that to those unfamiliar, it can appear daunting to get started. Whether you are simply looking to learn more or are trying to avoid embarrassment at your next bachelor party, knowing how to properly smoke a cigar can come in handy.

Lit cigar on cigar box

Choose your Preferred Cigar

If you are about to smoke your first cigar, chances are that it will be one that is gifted to you at one celebratory event or another. This can make for a great memory, though you are left with little choice in terms of the taste or feel of the cigar. If that is not the case, there are a few things to keep in mind when shopping for your first cigar.

As you are just getting started with cigars, it can be hard finding a cigar type or brand that suits your undeveloped palate, and true trial and error can get expensive. If you are not already used to cigarette smoking in general, you will certainly want to start off with a mild cigar. Get some help from the salesperson at the cigar shop of your choice, they will be happy to make recommendations for your first cigar.

Ask for a few mild cigar options, and make sure not to focus on the look. Bring the cigars up to your nose and take a deep breath in, see that the aroma is appealing to you and is not pungent. This comes down to personal preference, but the smell will be a good indicator of the cigar’s flavor. Select a few affordable alternatives, as there is no surefire way to test how much you like a cigar without smoking it.

Cut Your Cigar Properly

Cigars with cigar cutter

Before lighting up your first cigar, you will need to make sure that it is properly cut to ensure that it smokes properly. There are many different kinds of cigar cutters, from the classic guillotine style to elegant folding knives with more decorative designs. The style of the cutter itself will likely become a matter of personal preference for you, the most important thing is just that it is sharp enough for a clean cut.

The part of the cigar that you will be cutting off is called the cap, it is the closed-end located at the foot of the cigar. It can be intimidating to cut your first cigar, but if you are nervous, keep in mind that it is always better to cut less. You can always remove more if there is not enough airflow, but you cannot get back whatever you remove.

Using your chosen cutter (a sharp knife will also work in a pinch), remove the cap. The best thing to keep in mind when doing so is that you want to cut the cigar’s rounded end, make sure not to cut far enough down that the end will have parallel sides. If you cut too far, the wrapper leaf may come undone and leave you with a large mess of tobacco. Even if the cigar does not fall apart, you will probably have a rough first smoke, spitting bits of tobacco the entire time.

Let There Be Light

Once you have properly cut the cap off of your cigar, you are ready to light up. Your instinct may be to light the cigar like you would a cigarette, with the flame directly lighting the end of the cigar while you puff lightly. With a quality cigar, you certainly want to avoid doing so, or you will negatively impact the cigar’s flavor and smell.

Holding your lighter just far enough from the cigar that the flame does not reach it, slowly toast the end of your cigar while turning the cigar round. This will slowly light the cigar, far more evenly than it would if you were to hold a torch lighter directly to the end. This will bring out the very best flavors of the cigar without producing as much of a bitter taste.

If you do accidentally torch the cigar more than you intended to, do not despair. While the cigar may not taste or smell as good as it would at its prime, you will still be able to enjoy your experience. Take your time, but it is not so vital that you should feel any anxiety over it.

Smoking Your Cigar

Now that your cigar is toasted and lit, you are finally ready to start smoking. What many cigar smokers will advise is that you actually puff out before taking your first draw. This can clear out some of the chemicals that may have accumulated inside the cigar, pushing out some of the bitter taste. This in turn will give you a more enjoyable first smoke.

Puff gently and draw the smoke into your mouth, letting the flavor spread. Whether you were previously a cigarette smoker or a non-smoker, it is vital to remember to never inhale the smoke from your cigar. Unlike cigarettes, cigars are meant to be slowly enjoyed for their full-bodied taste and scent. Let the smoke sit in your mouth for a few seconds and gently release it. Focus on the flavors and the smells, ignoring everything else if you can.

Aside from the horrible coughing fit that would surely taint your first experience, it is also important not to inhale cigar smoke for health-related reasons. The smoke from a cigar is also much thicker and more potent than that of a cigarette and can lead to a huge increase in smoking-related mortality.

According to the American Cancer Society, cigar smokers can be 4 to 10 times more likely to die from mouth and throat cancers compared to cigarette smokers. That is without even inhaling the smoke, so be sure to stick to puffing to fill your mouth. That is also a great reason to leave the cigar-smoking for special occasions only, or you may find yourself dealing with some nasty health effects.


Now that you have the basics down, try to relax and enjoy yourself. It is good to have an ashtray nearby for obvious reasons, but avoid the instinct to tap off the long ash block at the lit end of your cigar. While it may be satisfying to watch half of the cigar’s length in ash drop into the ashtray, the ash on the end of your cigar will help protect your cigar from overheating or burning too fast.

If the ash does fall, it is not the end of the world, just try not to overdo it for the sake of your own smoking experience. Take your time while smoking, and make sure that you only continue so long as you are still enjoying it.

Do not feel any pressure to finish a cigar, especially if it is your first. For one thing, if you are a non-smoker, the amount of nicotine alone could make you feel sick or nauseous. Even if you have a history of smoking cigarettes, cigar smoke can be overwhelming, and it is of course possible that the particular cigar may simply not be to your taste.

Whether the cigar just is not pleasant, or you are beginning to lose your sense of enjoyment for any reason, that is the perfect time to put it out and complete your experience. Avoid stubbing out the lit end like you would a cigarette, as this can lead to an unpleasant smell in the surrounding area. Set the lit cigar down in the ashtray and let it slowly burn away.