Researched Works

Karl Marx and the Cuban Cigar

Karl Marx liked to claim he was a cigar connoisseur. His friends tested him using a fake Cuban cigar whose genuine twin has been known as the world's best.

In Karl Marx: Biographical Memoirs (1900), Wilhelm Liebknecht narrates how he and other comrades lured their less-privileged intellectual friend to believe that he was about to smoke a genuine Havana instead of a cheap imitation of the Cuban cigar. Delighted with the gift, Marx savored the smoke. A day after that gathering in 1851, Liebknecht knew Marx found out about the prank but insisted he puffed the real one.

Centuries before and after Karl Marx’s cerebral pieces (e.g., The Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital, among others), Cuban cigars have remained a lucrative merchandise.

What makes Cuban cigars supreme

The complementary fusion of Cuban tobacco's “three types of leaves, the wrapper, the filler and the binder, each with distinct characteristics” constitutes the the perfect smoke, My Cuban Cigars explains. In his interviews with two academic experts on Cuban and Latin American studies, Stuart Fox identifies Cuba’s geography, the skill of its people, and “a good deal of hype” as key factors why Cuban cigars are reputed “as the best in the world.”

Marketing of Cuban cigars

Prominent and current Cuban cigar brands include Cohiba, Hoyo de Monterry, Montecristo, H. Upmann, Romeo y Julieta, Partagas, Diplomaticos, Rafael Gonzales, Vegueros, and Punch. They compose 70% of world market sales, based on a Reuters’ account. Moreover, they are described as the “world standard against which other cigars are judged,” according to Joseph Perry and colleagues (1998). Many of these premium cigars are produced in Honduras, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba, of course. As of 2008, however, the United States (US) has led the pack of cigar producing countries, followed by a bunch of European states: i.e., Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain, Denmark, Switzerland, and Finland. The Dominican Republic got the eighth spot.

But like other commodities, Cuban cigars' sales performance fluctuates. Their profitability and production depend on market forces and state policies (e.g., smoking ban laws in some countries and the almost five-decade old US trade embargo against Cuba). As Will Weisert and Stephan Delbos of Tobacco Facts report, there has been a decline in Cuban cigars during the first quarter of 2010. Marc Frank though notes that new marketing strategies have been launched to counter the slump. Two of these are enticing the growing middle class in China to buy these products and, as Delbos documents, targeting women as consumers of cigars like in the case of Czech Republic.

Some famous smokers of Cuban cigars

With the exception of revolutionaries Che Guevera and Fidel Castro, as well as proletariat Cuban tobacco farm workers who smoke, the world's elite few transformed Cuban cigars into a status symbol because of their steep prices. Monarchs King Felipe V and Edward VII, state leaders Winston Churchill and John Kennedy, business tycoons J.P. Morgan and Milton Hershey, film actor Jack Nicholson, former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani, ballet icon Mikhail Baryshinikov, and athlete David Beckham are just among the famous who helped legitimize Cuban cigars' enviable standing.

And Karl Marx? He's still a popular historical figure. But, as Liebknecht writes, he smoked really bad cigars.

Sources

Author(s) unknown. n.d. Best Famous Cigars in the World. (accessed November 9, 2010).

Author(s) unknown. n.d. The secret of the perfect Cuban cigar. (accessed November 9, 2010).

Author(s) unknown. n.d. Top 100 Smokers. (accessed November 9, 2010).

Delbos, Stephen. 2010. “Cigar sales see worldwide slump”. Praguepost. March 3. (accessed November 9, 2010)

Fox, Stuart. 2010. “Why Are Cuban Cigars Considered the Best?”. Life's Little Mysteries. April 20. (accessed November 9, 2010).

Frank, Marc. 2010. “Smoking bans and economics hit famed Cuban cigars”. Reuters. June 21. (accessed November 9, 2010).

Frank, Marc. 2010. “Cuban cigar dealer fights bans, hard times”. Reuters. July 05. (accessed November 9, 2010).

Liebknecht, Wilhelm. 1900. Karl Marx: Biographical Memoirs. http://books.google.com/. (accessed November 9, 2010).

Perry, Joseph M. et al. 1998. The Cuban Cigar Industry as the Transition Approaches. (accessed November 9, 2010).

Rarick, Charles A. 2008. Note on the Premium Cigar Industry. Andreas School of Business, Barry University. (accessed November 9, 2010).

Weissert, Will. 2010. Cuban cigar sales drop 8 pct in ’09. February 22. (accessed November 9, 2010).


Written by Leann Zarah (leannzarah@gmail.com)

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