Italians on Italians
Beyond Toscano

Women who love cigars – connoisseurs or rebels?

To many people, there’s something unexpected about the image of a woman smoking a cigar...
Il Sigaro della Sera
To many people, there’s something unexpected about the image of a woman smoking a cigar. When you think about it, it’s something you don’t see very often. And while cigar smoking may historically seem like a very masculine pursuit, it’s a simple occasional pleasure that women all over the world can also enjoy.
In less enlightened times, when equal rights were a fight, and women’s liberation was a contentious issue, the sight of a woman smoking a cigar was shocking. Considered a man’s indulgence, with all the associated imagery of power, affluence and control that goes with it, for a woman to be seen with a cigar would do more than turn heads, it would be a statement of rebellion against a ‘man’s world’.
French novelist George Sand once lit up in front of a Russian nobleman, who looked at her in horror. At the time it was illegal for women to freely smoke in public and the nobleman told her “an honest woman would not smoke a cigar”. Much like her contemporary Marie d'Agoult, also a fan of tobacco, she didn’t pay attention to the concerns of men on such matters. Just like her, famous Italian author and singer Nada Malanima also has an affinity with cigars. An avid Toscano fan, she claims part of her love affair with cigars is the feeling of belonging to a very exclusive club.
The unfamiliar image of a woman with a cigar lends itself an air of the exotic. It’s a look that has been used to make a statement or titillate for decades in the entertainment industry. On Broadway, or in cabaret shows, the sight of a leading lady holding the stage in a revealing outfit and top-hat, while puffing a cigar, became a familiar sight. It’s a look that has also been adopted by stars including Liza Minnelli, Milva, Edith Piaf and Madonna at some point in their careers. When you think about it, in world where it seems little is taboo, it’s incredible how something as simple as a woman enjoying a cigar still has the power to attract so much attention.