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How to Become a Cigar Distributor

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Cigar imports are the best indicator of the state of the cigar industry because most hand-made cigars are made outside of the United States. According to Cigar Aficionado statistics, since 1992 the cigar industry in the U.S. has witnessed a renaissance of increased consumption. The demand for premium cigars and related accessories has transcended the traditional association with an older market of males. It now includes a wide cross-section of people who have developed an interest in the age old tradition of cigar smoking. There are even a growing number of cigar bars, also called “tobacco bars,” in many parts of the country that create new outlets for cigar distributors to supply basic stogies to premium cigars to the growing industry of cigar smokers.

Conduct industry research. The cigar industry is a highly regulated industry, both state and federal laws apply to distribution. Learn more about the cigar industry through on-line resources such as Tobacco Facts and by reading industry books such as Nat Sherman's a Passion for Cigars. Cigar aficionado magazine is also a monthly magazine for industry suppliers and customers that provides both product industry and regulatory information.

Start-up the cigar distribution company. Start-up steps to developing the distribution entity include registering with local and state government agencies, and obtaining applicable business licenses or permits. Secure a business address. Obtain a tax identification number (TIN) from the IRS. Set up a business bank account. Purchase basic business insurance and develop business cards and letterhead.

Compile a cigar industry resource list. This is the primary business contact list that will be used to establish business accounts for the new business. It will include a list of cigar manufacturers, wholesalers, and distributors. Some manufacturers only supply through wholesalers, while some distributors also provide wholesale pricing to other distributors. The Internet Cigar Group has compiled a great industry list which includes links to web-sites.

Obtain training as a tobacconist. This is a market where knowing details about the product makes a difference. The Tobacconist University (TU) qualifies Certified Retail Tobacconists. TU is an independent teaching and research organization established to preserve tobacconist traditions and enhance the knowledge of retailers and consumers. It is International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association's (IPCPR) official curriculum resource.

Join industry organizations. Cigar Association of America, Inc. (CAA) and IPCPR are just a couple of the cigar industry professional organizations. The IPCPR has a membership of approximately 2,000 professionals in small and family-owned cigar stores, as well as marketers and distributors of premium cigars, loose tobacco, pipes and other tobacco products and accessories. CAA is a national trade organization of manufacturers, importers, distributors, and major suppliers of cigars.

Tip provides an on-line cigar product catalog that helps new tobacconists become familiar with industry products.


This article is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for professional advice related to legal matters, accounting, investments, or taxes.

  • Tobacco Facts
  • "Nat Sherman's a Passion for Cigars;" Joel Sherman, et al; 1998

Vanessa Cross has practiced law in Tennessee and lectured as an adjunct professor on law and business topics. She has also contributed as a business writer to news publications such as the "Chicago Tribune" and published in peer-reviewed academic journals. Cross holds a B.A. in journalism, a Juris Doctor and an LL.M. in international business law.