“Gentleman, you may smoke.”
Those were the infamous words of King Edward VII after coming down on his mother’s–
aka Queen Victoria–smoking ban at court after taking the throne in 1901. And from that point forth, smoking, specifically, cigar smoking, took off. Regarded as an almost-ingrained habit of powerful people–monarchs, politicians, actors, CEOs–cigar breaks offer a pleasant distraction from daily stresses.
Cigar Aficionado put together a list of the top 100 cigar smokers of the twentieth century, honoring the most outspoken and recognized lovers of cigars to the private, I-only-do-this-at-home smokers.
As we all know, there is no greater couple than a powerful man and an excellent cigar, so here are our favorite notable figures who love a good cigar just as much as we do:
Before signing off on an embargo that would ban almost-all trade with Cuba in 1962, President John F. Kennedy had one important assignment for his press secretary, Pierre Salinger: obtain a thousand Petit Upmann cigars. From Cuba. With 24 hours to get the job done, Salinger exceeded the 35th president of the United States’ wishes, and ushered in a grand total of 1,200 cigars before Cuban tobacco became off-limits to Americans.
Starting his love affair with tobacco at age 24, Sigmund Freud was rarely pictured or spotted without a cigar in his mouth. Not surprising, considering he averaged on smoking about 20 cigars per day. Referring to his love for cigars as one of the greatest pleasures in life, the father of psychoanalysis constantly sought after symbolism in everything. Everything, save for cigars, for which he conceded that “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”
“A smoke in times of rest is a great companion to the solitary soldier,” was once written by Fidel Castro’s right-hand man, Che Guevara. Although asthmatic, Argentinian-born Guevara began smoking Cuban cigars as one of first adopted Cuban customs. He soon realized that cigars were better suited as incentives for his soldiers rather than a self-indulgence during the Cuban revolution.
“If you have to stop your act to keep lighting your cigar, the audience goes out,” said legendary comedian and cigar enthusiast George Burns on why he smoked El Producto cigars during his acts. Starting off singing in a candy store at age seven, Burns made a huge name for himself throughout most of the twentieth century in radio, TV, film, and live shows and lived to be 100 years old. His secret? 10 to 15 cigars a day, over a 70 year span, which allowed him to outlive the physician who advised time and time again for him to quit.