BEIRUT, June 18 (Xinhua) -- Despite suffering the worst financial crisis in its history, the Lebanese remain the world's biggest spender on cigars.
A study released on May 31 by data analysis site Statista revealed that Lebanon ranked number one globally on per capita revenue from cigar sales in 2022.
According to the study, Lebanon spends 36.7 U.S. dollars per person on cigars, compared to 35.6 dollars in the second-placed United States, 27.5 dollars in Qatar, 20.2 dollars in Luxembourg, and 15.1 dollars in Iceland.
The result surprised many as cigars, often considered luxury products, have retained a strong market in Lebanon which is suffering from a financial crisis that plunged over 80 percent of its population into poverty.
Ali Assaf, managing director at La Cubana, an importer of cigars, explained that most cigar demand comes from people whose revenues are paid in U.S. dollars, so a depreciating local currency has little impact on them.
Assaf noted that smoking is allowed or tolerated in many public places in Lebanon, which also helped increase the consumption of cigars, contrary to efforts in Europe and other parts of the world to create smoke-free public places to protect children and non-smokers.
Najat Abdo, CEO of HandRolled, a company importing and distributing cigars in Lebanon, attributes the high cigar consumption to the lifestyle of Lebanese, who are eager to enjoy the refined and luxurious things in life.
"We do cigar-tasting nights, and franchise owners from Europe and the United States come to Lebanon to join our events and talk about their brands," said Abdo, also the founder of Lebanese Cigar Aficionado and the owner of Club Mareva Beirut, a cigar lounge in Beirut.
Abdo says another factor that contributed to the increase in cigar consumption is the low custom rates which were paid at 1,500 Lebanese pounds per dollar until Nov. 30, 2022, before it hiked several times to the current 60,000 Lebanese pounds.
"This has become a tradition transmitted from one generation to another; when you speak to a cigar smoker, he may tell you that his father used to smoke cigars," Woody Ghsoubi, Abdo's partner and husband told Xinhua.
Ghsoubi also believes that COVID-19 also contributed to people's increase in cigar consumption.
"During COVID-19, people stopped spending on travelling, going out and buying clothes, so they channeled their spending to other hobbies, including cigar smoking, whereby those who smoked 1 or 2 cigars daily increased their consumption to 3 or 4," he said.