Why I smoke cigars by Cam Slater

When people see my humidor and my large collection of cigars the very next question they ask is ‘Why do you smoke cigars?’.

I’ve always liked cigars, but I was only ever an occasional cigar smoker and I’d never been a cigarette smoker. I’d every year or so, mainly when travelling to Fiji and catching up with my ex-pat mates, would give Grant a call and organise a care package for my time in Suva. But it was only ever occasionally.

Then in October 2018 I had a pretty severe stroke. You probably don’t realise this but when you cheat death like I did that day, you have a change come over you that means you start living for the moment and finding as much enjoyment as you possibly can, because you never know when that is going to be taken away.

I spent a week in Auckland Hospital, and left with the knowledge that the neuro-surgeons thought that I’d never use my right arm again as a result of the stroke.

That week in hospital though gave me the time to assess a few things, and one of those was to find a better way to slow the hell down. It also gave me time to research what causes strokes and more importantly how to repair the damage.

When you have a severe stroke of the type I had, it kills off parts of your brain. When I say killed off, I mean precisely that. A stroke, as in my case, can destroy, permanently, a large chunk of brain cells. In my case it was a 2cm diameter dead spot in the upper front left of my brain. The bit that controls my right side, my right arm, my right leg and the right side of my face.

I discovered that intense physiotherapy and repetitive training was paramount to my recovery, as was increasing neuro-plasticity. It was then that I found out that nicotine is one of the best chemicals to encourage improved neuro-plasticity. Having better neuro-plasticity means that it becomes easier for your brain to relearn the things that the stroke killed off.

Hallelujah! A solution. But how to get as much nicotine into me as possible without causing other problems. Cigarettes are disgusting. Gum has never been a thing. But cigars, and pipes, give you the best hit of nicotine in the shortest amount of time for pretty much the least risk.

Even the FDA in the US agrees. Smoking two – four cigars a day has negligible negative health effects, and for me huge benefits in increasing nicotine intake to aid my therapy.

I stopped working for two years. I went to physio every single day for six months, then five days a week for another six months. In year two I went to physio twice a week, plus took up shotgun shooting and did that twice a week too.

When the doctors told me I would never use my right arm again, I told them they were wrong. I set about proving them wrong every single day. Slowly but surely I recovered. I’m still not 100% but ask those who regularly attend the Auckland HERF about how much I’ve changed since having the stroke.

Another important feature of my rehabilitation was the need to change my lifestyle. I basically was working seven days a week with no time off. That and three court cases caused the huge amount of stress in my life that caused my stroke. I needed to slow the hell down.

Cigar smoking kind of enforced that. Luckily my stroke happened at the beginning of summer, so I spent every single day firstly going to physio, then ion the afternoon sitting down and having my cigar for the day. I had a rule, that I enforce to this day. Do not disturb me when I’m smoking. I’d get a deck chair out, set up and light my cigar then sit there smoking. Depending on the cigar I chose that could be one hour or up to three hours.

I slowly learned to slow down. But more importantly I was quietly increasing my neuro-plasticity.

On the plus side I also found what cigars I prefer, and it is no surprise that they are the ones with the most nicotine.

Everyone has differing reasons for smoking cigars, mine just happens to be for health reasons. So, the health nazis and wowsers can all go fly a kite, I smoke cigars for the good of my health. It’s working for me and I won’t let anyone stop what works.


Words and photos by Cam Slater.


Enjoy your read with a good cigar.