Is there anything more iconic than the image of the English gentleman in his dressing gown (read red silk robe) smoking a cigar? In my mind, such an image is one with that of the classic romance hero.
There is only one problem for the 18th century Georgian Hero…cigars didn’t really exist.
I really, really, really wanted my 1784 hero to smoke them, found out there really wasn’t a reasonable way to do it without doing back-story backflips for a single puff.
According to currently available of web sources–which often looked like they plagiarized one another–European cigar manufacture started in Spain. Spain produced cigars using Cuban tobacco from about 1717, but they held a monopoly on Cuban tobacco, prohibiting the sale of Cuban tobacco to other countries. By 1790 there were Cigar factories in Germany and France using, presumably, tobacco not grown in Cuba. There use is widely documented in France, but the taste had yet to pass over to England. Not until after the peninsular war in the early 19th century was the habit of smoking a Cigar brought home by soldiers. (The much less sexy snuff was the preferred method of tobacco usage)
In 1817 Kind Ferdinand VII of Spain ended Spanish monopoly on Cuban tobacco. “Segars” as they were known in London, were first produced in England in 1820. Although by 1821 there was an act of Parliament regulating their production, the habit wasn’t widespread. This I gather from a statistic I found in Cigar Magazine: in 1826 England was on record importing only 26 pounds of cigars a year. By 1830, they were importing 250,000 pounds of cigars a year.
So there you have it: it is highly unlikely that an 18th century hero smoked cigars. Of course, a writer can finagle just about anything. It appears Cigars took off much earlier in the Americas. So if your hero roamed the continent and developed the habit abroad, or if he was stationed for a time in the colonies, it wouldn’t be a huge leap to have him hoarding a stash. I think, however, he would save them for very special occasions, and his womenfolk would strongly object to his foreign habits.