With graduation season upon us, Instagram feeds are slowly filling up with photos of students sporting not only the traditional cap and gown attire, but also the time honored cigar.

cigar pack, cigars, cigar originFor many graduates across the country, smoking a cigar after receiving their diplomas is an unwritten tradition. It is a rite of passage that marks the end of one journey and the start of another. With their rich history and tradition, cigars are the perfect symbol of maturity.

Loyola High School, Los Angeles, California

At Loyola High School, an all-boys Jesuit school in downtown Los Angeles, underclassmen look at smoking with their brothers as a sign of success and completion. These boys have been waiting four years for this moment, and for many, this is the first time they’re lighting up.

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“I had no idea how to smoke a cigar, but I was excited to partake in this tradition with my fellow classmates. I ended up lighting my cigar but never smoked it successfully, so I just kept it to take pictures with my friends,” said Joon Sung, Loyola alumnus.

As recently as last year, graduates who were 18 were able to purchase their own cigars. However, California recently passed legislation raising its smoking age from 18 to 21.

This year’s graduating class had an uncomfortable conversation at their baccalaureate mass. Shortly after the dean told students that they were not legally allowed to smoke on school property before graduating, the principal added that technically, they couldn’t stop students from smoking after they graduated. He went on to say it was unlikely for authorities to give them consequences, despite the age restriction, given the school’s long history and tradition.

The boys erupted with cheer.

“We weren’t going to be the first graduating class from our school to not smoke the cigars,” Dominick Tragesar said.

“Parents still buy cigars for their children to keep the tradition going. My dad bought mine,” Justin Joo added. Cigars are commonly purchased by the fathers of the sons who are smoking as a hereditary symbol, and state regulations are not getting in the way. Some parents even bought extra cigars for kids who did not have one. 

While most people would think that it makes sense for this tradition to occur at all-boys schools as smoking cigars is more typically associated with men, they’d be surprised to find that girls partake in the tradition as well.

Middlesex School, Concord, Massachusetts

In fact, Sam Cadigan, alumna of Middlesex, a boarding school located in Concord, Massachusetts, said that smoking cigars at graduation happens at almost all boarding and public in Massachusetts.

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“While smoking does seem to have a “masculine bro-ish” culture around it, I think most students just see it as a way to break a rule on campus. I loved my high school experience, but going to boarding school means your life is regulated to a t by people who aren’t your parents, so things like drinking smoking or partying come with a high price,” Cadigan said.

“After four years of rigorous academics, crazy stress, and lack of a consistent place to relax and vent, we finally got to smoke on the grounds of a beloved place that had been so controlling. I see it as a tradition that’s sort of comedic and cathartic,” she continued.

As symbolic as the gesture may be, having hundreds of cigars lighting up in a small area could be perceived as dangerous and some parents do not allow their children to smoke a celebratory cigar.

“My mother is against any form of smoking so that was the big reason why I didn’t smoke a cigar,” said Katie Waltman, another Middlesex alumna. “My dad was a little more open to the idea but he also said I’d get super nauseous and I really wanted to avoid that, so I ultimately didn’t get a cigar.”

Deerfield Academy, Deerfield, Massachusetts

Deerfield Academy is another prestigious boarding school in New England where seniors celebrate the end of their high school journey with a celebratory cigar.

This tradition dates all the way back to the school’s origin when it started out as an all-boys institution; the custom has just stuck ever since.

“It’s still more so guys that smoke the cigars, but most girls join in as well. I still feel that guys’ parents are more inclined to buy their children cigars than girls’ parents are though,” said Sooah Ko, recent Deerfield graduate.

Ko added that the decision to participate or remove oneself from the tradition really just depends on the parents. She got a cigar from her friend, but about 30% of her classmates celebrated just as happily without one.

However, regardless of strict parents and state regulations, this tradition does not seem to be going anywhere. The majority of graduating seniors are lighting their cigars in the hopes that their own lights will shine even brighter as they forge a new future. Welcome your son or daughter into society the right way: with his or her very own customized cigar from Custom Tobacco.

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