Puff, puff, puff: Confessions of a cigar smoker

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I like cigars. There, I’ve said it. What’s more, I smoke them most days. I’m sure some of you are reading this with a mixture of disgust and contempt, but off and on I’ve had a cigar dangling from my lips from around the age of 19. But I’ve decided enough is enough. No more will I allow a cigar to touch my lips. Ah, it’s a sad life I lead.

For years I’ve had to endure all the usual propaganda about how bad smoking is for my health. That it’s a filthy habit. My kids can’t stand us smoking (my wife favours cigarettes), but they don’t live in chez Hickey anymore.

Thanks to Ireland’s tough smoking regulations going to the pub with my wife became a less enjoyable experience. Complicating matters is that I don’t drink alcohol. As the drink  and conversation builds so does my frustration. You can’t just nip out and have a cigar in 3 minutes like cigarette smokers in the freezing or rain-sodden smoking area. I’d barely have it lit at that stage, never mind inhale.  Instead I grin and bear it for the few hours. Once I arrive home I would reach for the flame thrower and arrive in cigar heaven.

Oh how I used to pine for the days when I could blow smoke all around me in the pub or restaurant, probably annoying some fellow customers. That lovely feeling when you exhaled was so satisfying. The trick was not to hold onto the smoke for too long or you’d end up coughing and spluttering for awhile. My money’s as good as yours, buddy! And I loved being able to light up at work until the regulations changed. Spoilsports. Now, cigar smokers (like cigarette lovers) are treated as social outcasts, only tolerated if they leave their polluting weeds at home.

Good weather used to be my friend, and holidays in cigar-friendly territory like Spain, Vienna and even jolly old Ireland (sitting outside while puffing on a cigar was heaven) my only outdoor release.

I liked King Edwards for years, but my dad, then working in Libya (around 1969-70), used to bring home boxes of Cuban cigars and we’d puff away happily together. Increasingly, cigars have become an expensive indulgence. I rarely bought half coronas (€9.40 or thereabouts now) and suffered with Pikeurs, which are a step above the poor man’s Hamlets. God bless them but the kids have occasionally bought me posh cigars, and Daire found himself in Cuba once and came back with what seemed like a cigar factory production line. Oddly enough, he has never brought his mother duty free cigarettes, but this is the guy who once as a child printed off no smoking signs and sold them to neighbours.

A few weeks ago Trish and I savoured a week’s break in sunny Puerto Rico in Gran Canaria. Cheap tobacco made the holiday even better. But, having bought a few boxes of cigars to take back, I noticed a tiny hole in my shorts. Jeepers, I’d forgotten the cigarette burn from last year. It got me thinking about a nice shirt I had also burned last year. And then there was the ash that always seemed to land on my lap, clothes, books, iPad without me noticing. And that horrid stale smell from your clothes. Not nice.

I swore then that as soon as my stash of cigars were used up I would never smoke another. And I haven’t – well, for the last couple of days. And we’re off to Manchester in a few days, a chance to see my beloved United win/lose/draw. Given the nightmare season they’re having I may be back on the cigars come Monday, but I don’t think so.

That picture above was taken at home last week. It was my (cough, splutter) last cigar. Quite what I’ll do with all the money I’ll save I haven’t quite worked out yet. Any ideas just drop me a line.

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