How Many Cigar Smokers are there in the U.S.?

Who knows? For the last few months we’ve been scouring the web to answer this vexing question. All it takes is one Google search to get stats on how many Americans drink Coke, drive a Ford or fly American Airlines. Sure, we could probably shell out several grand to commission a study, but we have bigger fish to fry. Apparently, the cigar industry is too insignificant in the grand scheme of things for publicly available market research.

Well, cigars are not that insignificant to government-sponsored anti-smoking organizations, and unfortunately that’s where most of the statistics are coming from. But what they define as a ‘cigar’ and a ‘cigar smoker’ is predictably misleading to fit their agendas.

The most recent appraisal of the size and related demographics of the cigar industry was conducted in 2008 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. By their estimation, the cigar industry is a $4 billion annual industry and 13.1 million people are ‘cigar users’ in the U.S.

What percentage of those numbers are actual cigars (4+ inches)? Try 16%. The rest of the lot are cigarillos and “little cigars” like Bidis and clove cigarettes. Their estimates define a ‘cigar user’ as someone who smoked a cigar (or cigarillo, or little cigar) in the last 30 days. So if they tried a cigar for the first time and didn’t like it, they’re a cigar smoker. If they smoke one cigar a year and it happened to be around the time they took the survey, they’re a cigar smoker. And you know how surveys go — younger kids will say they smoked a cigar to look cool, and very sporadic cigar smokers say they’re cigar users to keep their aficionado cred.

Bottom line, we can’t trust these bloated figures from anti-tobacco leagues. So where’s the market research?

This report from Euromonitor International on the U.S. cigar industry completely contradicts the CDC. By their estimation, ‘standard’ and ‘large’ cigars (4+ inches) account for 92.7% of the cigar market, while cigarillos are just 7.3%. I hope that gives you an idea of how difficult it is to find reliable data — the two estimations couldn’t be more different… and they were both done the same year, 2008.

I hate blogs that ask a question and then never answer it. But the fact is, the answer always depends on who you ask. In the end, our company has a good enough idea of the size of the market by digging around. Our best estimates? We think there’s around 7 million potential customers for our cigar products in the U.S., and that the industry generates just under $1 billion in revenue yearly, with each cigar smoker spending an average of about $140 per year. We’re sure it’s not 100% accurate, but for our purposes, it’s a good guess. We know our loyal readers spend way more than $140/year on cigars, but you’re balanced out by all those Swisher Sweets and Dutch Masters “connoisseurs”.

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