In this article, I would like to share ideas on and questions about cigar industry trends. No, we won’t discuss about how nice Habanos are or what the best relative humidity is for storing your cigars.
The question here is, how can the cigar industry have positive social and environmental impacts on today’s world?
First, we will go over the basics to set the context, and then I will discuss the ideas behind the question.
Cigars are constructed of three parts: the filler, the binder and the wrapper. Each part has a specific purpose and can come from different parts of the world.
In the case of the following N°54 from Quai d’Orsay (Habanos S.A.) all parts are Cuban.
Premium cigars are usually hand made by Torcedores : skilled workers that hand roll cigars.
It is known that most cigar tobacco producers are based in Latin America (Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua, Cuba, Dominican Republic or Brazil) and less frequently Cameroon, Indonesia or other countries.
In the case of Latin America, cigar companies are based there mainly for historical reasons. After the Cuban revolution (1953–1959), some cigar producers left the country to flee the embargo, continue their businesses and bring their expertise somewhere else. They ended up in countries like Mexico, Nicaragua and Dominican Republic. This is true of brands like Joya de Nicaragua and Plasencia.
The problem is that some of these countries, like Nicaragua or Honduras are known to be “unstable”. In August 2018, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) published a report titled “Human rights violations and abuses in the context of protests in Nicaragua”. It’s difficult to enjoy a good, quality cigar from these countries knowing that citizens in that country face problems like a lack of freedom of speech, basic human rights, and fair wages.
What lies ahead?
Recently, news reports show that the cigar industry is trending toward using organic tobacco. It seems that the company pioneering this is Plasencia. They started cultivating on certified organic farms and launched a cigar called Reserva Organica.
“The better we take care of our land, better the tobacco gonna end.”Nestor Plasencia
In an interview with JR Cigars, Nestor Plasencia informed that their new cigar, Alma Fuerte, contained organic tobacco leaves. He added: “The better we take care of our land, better the tobacco gonna end.”
It seems that they are the only players in the cigar organic tobacco field right now. Verdadero once produced an organic cigar, but it seems that the brand doesn’t exist anymore.
Is there any hope?
Considering the different problems mentioned above, it is possible to bring existing solutions from other industries and adapt them to the tobacco industry, and more specifically, for the cigar industry.
One of the solutions is certifications. Having a certification system in place would ensure the purchased items respect specific rules regarding contributing to a positive impact (social, environmental, economic).
In the case of social impact, we can think of fair trade certifications for this industry. Certifications of this kind would make it necessary for companies prove to the consumer that the workers involved in cigar production and packaging are being paid adequately, and that the company has a positive impact on the lives of its workers and on local communities.
Tobacco fields and leaves can suffer from diseases and insects. Tobacco growth and production is affected by climate conditions and bad weather can reduce the productivity. In this case, farmers can come into contact with insecticides, herbicides, ripening agents, growing agents to control these problems. But we know perfectly well that these chemical products are harmful to the surrounding ecosystem and negatively impact the health of workers. Environmental certifications would make it necessary for companies to prove that their tobacco production respects the local ecosystem and their workers.
B Corporation created by B Lab, is a certification that is a good example to follow in the case of social and environmental positive impact certifications. These certifications won’t solve all the issues, but they can definitely help workers, communities and consumers, meanwhile companies can still make a profit.
Being able to enjoy a quiet moment with a cigar knowing that you are not contributing in any way to harming the environment and other people is possible, but for now, we must remain patient.
Cover Photo by Yuting Gao