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Women In The Cigar Industry: Sometimes A Cigar Is Just A Smoke

Feb 10, 2008
Maybe it's Victorianism. Or perhaps it's that '30s stereotype we all still have of cigar smokers as heavyset, overcoated, wealthy men, lighting their stogies with $100 bills. Or maybe it's even because of that folkloric Freudianism, still so influential in America, that tells us cigars are always intended to- substitute for something.

But whatever the reason, cigar smoking is often thought of as a "boy's game." In fact, though, at least half a million American women smoke cigars, according to a 2002 estimate by the Cigar Association of America. That number makes sense in a country where - according to demographic research by Cigar Babes, a nonprofit organization for women cigar smokers - women make 85% of buying decisions, start 70% of new businesses, and buy 50% of the products classified traditionally as "male."

The cigar industry has begun to reflect these demographic changes, with women assuming positions of power at the industry's highest levels. For starters, there's Janelle Rosenfeld, the Vice President of Advertising and Communications for cigar giant Altadis USA. A native Midwesterner, Rosenfeld developed an interest in cigar smoking during the so-called "cigar boom" of the 1990s, and left the pharmaceutical industry to work in advertising for Altadis (then called Consolidated Cigar Corporation), according to an interview published recently in Cigar Magazine.

Rosenfeld has spearheaded some bold advertising campaigns for Altadis, some of which reflect, interestingly enough, a rather reactionary gender politics; these include a recent print ad featuring a nude woman covered in paint (shades of Goldfinger!) and a series of advertisements posing the question, "Are You Man Enough" (for Trinidad cigars, that is)? Is that message mixed enough?

Then there's Lisa Figueredo, who in 2005 started Tampa, Florida's, only cigar specialty mag, Cigar City Magazine. As she told Jeffrey Beckwith of Cigar Envy, Figueredo had nostalgic memories of growing up touring the cigar warehouses of Ybor City and West Tampa, and thought it was odd that an area of the country with deep roots in the cigar business lacked its own cigar magazine. So she started one.

With a small group of friends, family members, and colleagues, Figueredo spent months contacting local businesses and locally-based cigar corporations, scaring up the contacts and ad sales necessary to fund a new publication. Starting a new magazine on any subject is incredibly tiring work, but Figueredo and company managed to put together a 25,000-copy print run for issue one and to distribute it to over fifty local venues. It retails for free, with the costs covered by advertising.

Mariana Miranda is one half of the husband-and-wife team that owns Miami Cigar and Co. With hard work, this literal mom-and-pop operation distributes cigars from Spain, Honduras and the Dominican Republic to the United States, and has done so since 1989. The late eighties was hardly an auspicious period in the history of the premium cigar industry - sales flattened through much of the decade - but Miami Cigar had enough staying power to outlast the industry's gray period.

By 1995, they were clearing 3.1 million cigars per year in distribution. The business started when a bored Mariana suggested to her husband, Nestor, that she sell cigars to the liquor-store company for which he worked, according to an interview she gave to Cigar Aficionado magazine. Initially unfamiliar with cigars (she confused the term for "small cigars" with the Spanish word for "pound cake"), she grew to be, in the words of CA writer Shandana Durrani, "one of the foremost women executives in the cigar industry."

Finally, consider Raquel and Patricia Quesada - the pair of sisters who, according to Cigar Magazine writer Miranda Osborn, "represent the fifth generation of loving caregivers" (interesting word choice!) to the Dominican-based cigar company Manufactura de Tabacos SA (MATASA). They follow their father, company president Manuel Quesada, and three earlier generations in working for MATASA, handling a bewildering array of tasks: for Raquel, there's the supervision of filling, binding, and wrapping; quality oversight; inventory, ordering and shipping, while Patricia works with accounting and supplies.

These hard-working women keep a family tradition alive and pave the way for further acceptance of women at high levels of the cigar industry - all while helping to operate the company that brings you Jose Benito, Casa Blanca, and Fonseca, to name a few.

What, after all, could be more appropriate than women's conquest of the cigar industry? The cigar world has always used women's labor - as rollers, lectors, and growers - so it's only right that women should, increasingly, make the decisions by which today's huge, multinational cigar corporations are directed. Women are no longer an "invisible presence" in this industry. Women of the cigar world, we salute you!
About the Author
CigarFox provides the finest cigars that include cigar brands like cohiba, gurkha and many more. Other cigar products include cigar humidors, cigar boxes, and cigar accessories like Zippo Lighters.
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