Toronto's Complicated Love Affair With Cuban Cigars

Cigars_Canada_illo - iStock - P 2017

You can openly buy a Cohiba or a Montecristo in the city — but lighting up at that fest afterparty might get you tossed out on the street.

Giuseppe Diluciano, co-owner of Thomas Hinds Tobacconist in Yorkville, is still blown away recalling the day Arnold Schwarzenegger stepped into his store. “It was like a mirage. He probably has a vault of cigars at home, and [yet] he’s in our store,” recalls Diluciano, pointing to a photo on his wall of a grinning Schwarzenegger holding a box of Partagas.

Canada has never had an embargo on Cuban cigars, so they’re readily on sale here. But stringent anti-smoking laws mean firing up a chunky Cohiba or Montecristo at a TIFF party will likely get you thrown out on the street.

Toronto’s cigar lounges and terraces have closed down, and most cigar-chomping stars, who are in the city to shoot a movie or walk a TIFF red carpet, tend to keep their stogie love on the down low (you can’t even light up within the confines of an actual cigar shop).

Kris Miller, who runs Frank Correnti Cigars, Toronto’s last remaining Cuban cigar maker on Spadina Avenue, has made custom cigars for Russell Crowe, Robert Duvall, Bono and John Goodman, all of whom have discreetly visited the shop over the years (Robert De Niro always sends an assistant).

Cuban cigar-loving stars have long been secretive about their puffing preferences. Toronto Thomas Hinds’ Diluciano remembers the late Dennis Hopper in 2005 phoning to ask about Cuban cigars while shooting George A. Romero’s Land of the Dead here. He arrived a few hours later, a hat on his head and his coat drawn up around his chin.

“He was very cool, like he didn’t want anyone to recognize him,” recalls Diluciano.

This story first appeared in The Hollywood Reporter's Sept. 8 daily issue at the Toronto Film Festival.