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Cigar Burning and How to Fix Cigar Burning Problems

Man holding a burning cigar with the sun as a backdrop

Premium cigars – or in other words no filter cigars – are just such a work of art. I can assure you, the very cigars we smoke today will have had many people involved in the process of producing them. A hand-rolled cigar has to undergo many procedures and tests so you can imagine the number of hands that will have touched and prodded it along the way. All in all, make sure that whatever hand-rolled cigar you choose to smoke, make sure it is the finest you can afford. Some issues do, however, arise, particularly around cigar burning. Let’s take a deeper look at cigar burning problems and how to fix them.

Tunneling, canoeing, runners, and more. Have you heard of any? I’m sure you have. I want to uncover the reason for these common cigar burning issues if you are like me and can get frustrated with these issues come and join me in this investigation.

 An excellent burn with a consistent ash and thin black burn line

Picture this: it’ been a hectic day at work and you’re just leaving to go home. Your thoughts wander whilst driving home and then you rest your thoughts on a particular cigar you’ve been interested in for quite a while. The closer you get to home, the more you consider smoking that cigar. You give in to your mind’s demands and choose to smoke it tonight to let your thoughts rest. You’ve been stressed all day, what do you expect?

You enter your house, shoes off, bag away and you take in the silence that lingers eerily through your home as you realize the kids are staying at your mom’s tonight. Now you take advantage of these peaceful hours you rarely receive and dig into that cigar.

Then you snuggle into your favorite chair in the living room. A gentle fire crackles in the background. You light the foot of your cigar and, as it gets darker and darker you, take a couple of puffs until your cigar starts to glow a sunset red. That overwhelming stress slowly fades until every muscle in your body turns to jello.

This situation I have just described comes as a rarity for me but when that special moment arrives at your door, I snatch it away. There’s nothing better than a peaceful smoke where the day is about to come to an end and you’re finally allowed to let go. It’s just me, myself, and I time.

Lately, I’ve been mesmerized by the cherry glow burning at the tip of my cigar. Occasionally I’ll experience a bad burn but for the most part, I get fascinate myself with the way the actual cigar burns.

I am in sorts a book worm; I try to get my hands on anything I can find on the bookshelf. Non-fiction, to fiction to autobiography. I’m truly baffled by the little information I find on burn issues regarding my cigars.

My biggest question: What does a bad burn look like? And how do I avoid it?

The Correct Cigar Lighting Technique

A bad burn’s most typical characteristic is known as the variation in the blue line. If the burn line is more than 3/8 of an inch, it’s most likely gonna be a bad burn. The perfect burn is so rare, especially in a hand-rolled product. I believe that’s why this figure is used nowadays.

Avoid Cigar burning issues by properly lighting your cigar.

If you rush through the beginning stages of smoking you stogie like lighting your cigar, you may find that’s why you suffer from bad burns.

You can always avoid a bad burn by taking care when toasting the foot of your cigar. If you’re looking for a proper toast, you must hold your cigar between your thumb and middle finger. Ensure your palm of your hand is at a forty-five-degree facing the floor. Using your free hand ignite the lighter and slowly, carefully bring the flame closer to the foot of the cigar. Any form of discoloration or bad smoke coming from the cigar, and blow out the flame. You’ll see a small puff of smoke leave your cigar, only then should you stop moving the flame closer to your cigar.

Allow yourself time to get the flame in the correct distance from the foot of the cigar. Then you should start rotating the cigar between your fingers. This is quite important as it helps avoid overheating a part of the foot of your cigar. When it comes to extinguishing the flame, ensure the foot is equally darkened on all parts and you have a thin ring of glowing red.

Take a couple of puffs – only gentle – once you’ve successfully got your cigar burning. Ensure you’re rotating the cigar in your mouth as you puff as well. The way to tell if you actually have an even cigar burning is by gently blowing on the foot of your cigar. Repeat the lighting process again if you are unsuccessful in lighting it evenly. By doing this process – and it can seem quite long – you hugely lower any further risks of severe burns.

Cigar Burning Issues

Unfortunately, you still have a small chance of developing burn problems even if you feel satisfied with properly lighting your cigar. A common burn is when you have some wind – this causes what’s known as an erratic burn. As you puff on your cigar, sometimes the wind can blow along a side your cigar, therefore, increasing combustion.

Another example of cigar burning variation is uneven humidity throughout your stogie. This is a typical mistake where sometimes you can put down a no-cellophane cigar on a moist surface. Similar to a sponge, the cigar absorbs the excess moisture off the surface it lies on and that moisture rests in the inner tobacco. When that cigar is then lit, the more moist side burns slower than the dryer side. Once that happens you are left with a burn varitaion.

In other cases, some burns are caused by the rolling process. When cigars are rolled by the apprentice roller, this problem arises occasionally. It just depends on how badly they roll it. Sometimes they roll it too loosely, or too tight. In any one of these situations, you will not only experience draw problems but you’ll have variation in combustion too. If this is suspected among some of your cigars, watch out for the draw on your cigar. The tobacco has been rolled incorrectly if you undergo tight to loose variations in a draw.

Related burn problems can be corrected – don’t worry. Touching up a cigar is when you light the slow-burning side of the cigar. Avoid over puffing while touching up the burn. It speeds up the slow burning side. Over time this can correct the burn variation – jus be patient and you’ll get there.

By now, I’m hoping you feel a bit more confident in distinguishing a good burn from a bad one. You should further know how to correctly light a cigar, avoiding some major burn problems.

More Serious Cigar Burning Problems

If caught out early, some of these more severe burn problems can be prevented. However, in order to catch one early, you must first understand what to look out for.


One of the most common problems I see arise often is called ‘canoeing’. This occurs when the burn line somehow gets a bit out of control and ends up burning deep into one side of the body more than the other.

A canoe shaped cigar burn

Like I mentioned earlier, this problem can be caught out early you by paying close attention to your burn line. A good burn should be thin and even all the way around the cigar. One of the early signs of canoeing is if the burn line is becoming irregular or wide on one part of the cigar. On general terms, this just means the cigar is getting overheated and or is heating unevenly which leads to a faster combustion rate on one side of the cigar. The faster the rate of combustion, the faster that diagonal shape will appear (see photo above), and the hotter the one side of the cigar will get compared to the other side.

Fixing a Canoeing Cigar

A good way of preventing the canoeing is to slow down the rate of smoking. Try puffing lighter and less frequently. By doing so, you allow the over-heated side to burn across the foot of the cigar. In order to accelerate the burning side, I suggest touching the cigar on its one side.

If the canoeing has taken its toll and cannot be prevented any further, simply place it down and let it go out in its own time. Use a guillotine-style cutter to clip the foot of the cigar so that you can start again once the cigar is cool. Once you have done so, allow yourself to gently exhale through the cigar therefore taking away any other harmful or smelly chemical flavors that have lingered due to the combustion rate. You may enjoy your cigar once again after repeating the lighting process.


This one actually looks like its name itself. It’s basically where the fuse has burnt the inner part of your cigar and left the outer layers of tobacco leaves creating a hole straight through the middle of your stogie. It’s just like some sort of void in the middle of your cigar! The filling is slowly burnt from the inside out leaving the ash to fall out.

If you are a slow cigar smoker and you enjoy taking your time, you may have experienced this problem a few times as it only really occurs with slow smokers. It usually happens when you leave you cigar in the ashtray for too long and you don’t puff it enough. The still-burning foot of the cigar partly goes out. The filler is left to smolder as the outer foot goes out. As it’s left to smolder, overtime it continues to burn throughout the cigar. When the smoker comes to puff again, the filler is still lit and continues to burn. When the smoker chooses to leave the cigar to go out on the ashtray, the burned filler falls away into ashes leaving behind a strange tunnel going straight through the center of the stogie.

Tunnelling as the name suggest burns through the middle of the cigar

A common sign of this type of problem is a gradual lack of smoke while puffing. In addition to the lack of smoke, the ash will cease to progress down the cigar. To remedy a tunnel, the easiest thing to do so is immediately touch up the foot and begin to smoke at a slightly faster rate. A purge is also recommended at this point as the partially burnt tobacco may begin to leave an unenjoyable flavor on your palate. 

Just like a canoe that is too far gone, you can allow the cigar to cool and go out, then clip and re-light the foot to resume your smoke. 


Coning is the complete opposite of tunneling. It looks like a sharp-pointed spike sticking out of the cigar. If you’re in a rush and you accelerate the speed at which you smoke your cigar, the cigar is being puffed frequently and not being left enough time to cool down sufficiently. As this process, is repeated, the wrapper and binder are burnt away by a super hot filler. Since the filler stays hot and keeps burning slowly round the surrounding tobacco, it stays by the foot and protrudes away from the binder and wrapper.

One thing to remember is that if the tobacco is dense and full or resins, this will speed up this process and accentuate the problem as it doesn’t burn as readily as other less dense types of tobacco.

Any signs of gradual harshness of the smoke is usually a common sign of coning. The filler gradually becomes overheated and the tobacco surrounding it also. If you taste any hot or nasty flavors during your smoke, this could be another sign.

The first thing I recommend doing after realizing you are experiencing some coning issues is setting down the cigar and allowing it some time to properly cool down. Once you feel satisfied with that, you can always resume smoking but make sure you smoke at a much slower rate. All you’re doing is allowing the filler to remain cool and allow itself to catch the burn rate of the binder and wrapper.

There is another way to help prevent this type of situation. All you must do is allow the ash to remain on the foot of the cigar until it appears as though it is going to drop off. You’re limiting the actual airflow then by doing so and this helps keep the foot of the cigar cool. And that in turn helps slow down combustion rates.


I saved the worst one till last I’m afraid. You wanna know why? Runners are the most likly to succeed in destroying the cigar end of. What’s worse, is it can happen in a matter of minutes. When this type of cigar burning occurs you tend to find there is a massive change in burn line and typiaclly speaking only appears to run down the one side of the cigar.

A running cigar burn eats the edge of a cigar

One of the most common reasons why a runner occurs is if there is a large vein in one of the wrappers. As that vein begins to burn, it kind of acts like a fuse that travels all the way down one side of your cigar. Once it starts to burn down the fuse, the wrapper slowly deteriorates. Imagine unzipping your coat, that’s what happens with the fuse as it slowly burns the length of the cigar wrapper. It moves in the line of the vein (a predictable line). The wrapper begins to pull apart and this leads to the destruction of your cigar.

In most cases, a tunnel begins to form off-center and close to the wrapper. The heat increases as the tunnel get worse. A small hole will eventually come into view. Often it’s about an inch away from the burn line. Unfortunately, the hole gets bigger as the burn line progresses. When the cigar is finished, you jsut left with a large gaping hole in your cigar with much of your wrapper exposing the burnt filler and binder. Quite a nasty sight really.

Fixing a running cigar

If your cigar becomes victim to this deadly burn, the best and well only way to act is by letting the cigar cool down and then try relighting it. If the runner is caused by a heavy vein, wet the tip of your finger and s=carefully apply some saliva to the vein – yuck! I know. This will help slow the burn and hopefully, finger crossed tight it may stop the burn.

However, if this doesn’t work, have a peek at it and see if the vein presents any clear signs of getting smaller or stopping. If it’s a negative, discontinue use of the cigar. However, if there is a sign of stopping or getting smaller in size continue smoking it in the hopes that the runner will stop in its tracks.

For me, I find it hard to tell if the runner will occur and when it will occur. However, I’ve smoke cigars with large veins in the past showing no signs of runners so that just goes to show that there is no clear guarantee they will cause burn issues.

I hope what I’ve explained above gives you a little bit more strength in diagnosing and dealing with burn issues. Be patient with yourself and the cigar. And, remember, no matter the complexity or seriousness, you’ve just gotta take your time.

Nuisances While Smoking

Burn Nuisances – where do I start! Just kidding – I’ve written a ton already! But nonetheless, I’m hoping you have a bit of a stronger grasp of what causes burn problems and how to correct them and now I will outline some nuances. These don’t occur often for me but when they do, boy oh boy are they annoying.

Blistered wrapper cigar

An unattractive site is bubbling or blistering at the burn line. This doesn’t really lead to any major damaging; it’s more on account of ugliness. This happens as a result of over humidified cigars. The extreme temperatures will mean it might flash boil the extra humidity left in your cigar. Gradually the water turns into vapor and the wrapper and binder begin to swell.

Once this occurs, a number of other issues occur with it. You could get cracks in the wrapper – that’s a common one – or tobacco expansion. However, this only happens to the weaker tobacco leaves. It’s less likely to happen to stronger leaves.

Slowing down the rate you smoke at will help correct the problem extensively. You’re basically allowing any extra moisture to turn to steam but at a much slower rate.

Over Humidified Cigars

An over humidified cigar can also lead to your cigar not lighting properly which in my opinion is one of the most frustrating nuisances. The excess water trapped in the cigar when heated turns to a sort of smolder. The tobacco will constantly go out. There’s nothing more that I hate doing than having to relight a cigar. Have constant attention on the burn line.

Keeping your humidor at 65-70% RH will ensure your cigars don’t get overqualified. You can always solve a problem like this before they develop into something else.

If your cigar is rolled with too much tobacco – which can happen – it will worsen the results of over humidified cigars.

In the end, it’s always easier to dump the cigar and grab a new one. The tips I have outlined above may help. Hopefully by helping you to correct common burn issues, you can still enjoy your smoke.

Conclusion on Cigar Burning Problems

As wordy as this article has been, I hope you found it helpful along the way and you’ve learned some good tips. Due to the extreme lack of resources regarding the topic, this article has become one of my longest ones yet! I now feel much more comfortable when it comes to diagnosing and correcting problems even though it took me hours of researching cigars!

Some More Helpful Cigar Burning Reading

How to fixed uneven burning cigars

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