It's easy to look like an amateur when you try something new - lighting up that first cigar is no exception. You may have qualms about smoking in general, or maybe your don't worry about it at all, but in either case you should be prepared to knowledgeably conduct yourself if you're invited to smoke a cigar. Rising to such an occasion with poise is more about social grace than an endorsement of smoking.

Being offered a celebratory cigar is not an everyday occurrence, but you can be sure to have one handed to you at some point during your life, no matter whether you're at a bachelor party or are sharing one with new business partners. Even if you're looking to indulge in one simply for the flavor, proper technique can elevate the experience. The problem for inexperienced cigar smokers is that they don't really know how.

We'll cover the basics of cigar smoking, so that you can avoid the most common mistakes of novice cigar smokers.

The Two Ends of a Cigar

When you look at your cigar, you'll notice that one end is closed and the other end is open. The closed end is often rounded and sometimes pointed and is the end that you trim. But, when you snip it, be sure to use a cigar cutter or other very sharp instrument. Gnashing through a stogie with your teeth will not only look barbaric, but will likely leave a jagged edge and allow it to unravel which will take away from your enjoyment of the smoke. You want to make sure to make a clean, straight cut so that you have enough room to pull smoke, but don't damage the leaf. If you are worried about tarnishing the cigar during this process, consider using a cigar punch. Instead of a straight cut, this tool actually punches a hole in the cigar to allow for smoother air flow. Luckily, these accessories aren't costly, as JR Cigars sells cigar cutters that range $20.00 - $50.00.

Lighting the Cigar

 article about Common Mistakes of Novice Cigar Smokers

You could light your cigar with a regular match, but that's not the ideal way of doing it. A butane torch lighter like this one is the optimal choice for this task because it does not introduce any materials that may alter the taste of your smoke. The trick here is to apply a consistent heat to the open end of the cigar so that it is evenly lit and produces a glowing ember. If using a wooden match, wait a moment until the flame moves beyond the sulfur so that you don't draw in that element with your first puff.

Most cigarette smokers don't think twice about lighting their cigarette with someone else's. The same does not hold true for cigar smokers. Aside from being an ineffective way to light it, this tactic is considered rude by many. The lit cigar may also be damaged in the process, so don't make this embarrassing mistake.

Please, Don't Inhale

I can say from experience that this is probably the most common error that is made by inexperienced cigar smokers – particularly if they are cigarette smokers. Inhaling the smoke will cause you to cough and will also result in an immediate feeling of nausea that can last for hours.

The right way to smoke is to draw a comfortable amount of smoke into your mouth, hold it there to savor the flavor, and then blow out the smoke – slowly. Cigar aficionados will always suggest that you take it slow. Smoking a cigar is about the experience; not a race to the finish, so take your time and enjoy.

Choose Information Sources Wisely: Learn from the Best

It is very important that you learn from the pros. There is a lot of information about cigars on the internet right now, but it's not all the same quality. Look for reputable sources that have been helping new smokers for decades, like Stogie Fresh Cigar Publications or like the great "Beginner's Guide" in Cigar Magazine.

No Sampling

You may be offered a choice of cigar by your newfound smoking buddies. Since you're new to cigar smoking, giving you a choice is a wasted gesture. Luckily, avid cigar smokers are always willing to offer a primer on selecting a great stick, so you can rely on their expertise when making your selection.

Cigars are not meant to be shared
While smoking, you may be tempted to ask one of your friends for a taste of theirs for comparison, much like you may do when sampling someone else's cocktail. Don't do it. Cigars are not meant to be shared, and rolling a cigar in your lips as you smoke makes the ritual much more personal than sipping a drink.

Buying Someone Else a Cigar

Enjoying a cigar with friends is a staple of the smoker's lifestyle. If your friends enjoy smoking as much as you do, you may want to buy a nice stogie when gifts are accepted. Knowing the preferred style, size, and taste of your companion will help you find the perfect cigar for their lifestyle. If you are unaware, consider purchasing a variety pack or asking for a recommendation from your local tobacconist.

Enjoy the Experience

Now that you know the basics of cigar smoking, you may no longer think of it as a peculiar behavior enjoyed by members of a secret society. You may experience only limited enjoyment from your first attempt, as cigar smoking may not be your thing. That's fine, as long as you give yourself the opportunity to enjoy the experience, by being aware of the mistakes that amateurs make, so that you can avoid them.