What is a Cigarette Boat? (And Why is it Called That?)

what is a cigarette boat

"What is a cigarette boat?" is a question that gets thrown around in the boating world more often than you would think. Much like the terms Google, Taser, Thermos, and even Escalator, Cigarette is actually a brand and not a generic name.

Cigarette, or Cigarette Racing, has been used so often that it can now be considered as a household name that refers to a type of boat. Cigarette boats, alternatively known as go-fast speedboats or powerboats, come from quite an interesting history, involving drug smugglers and the occasional rum runner.

If you are interested to know more about the boat's origins in the 1930s as well as the creation of the brand in the 1960s, then continue reading!

What are Cigarette Boats and What are They Used for?

Cigarette boats either refer to the brand Cigarette Racing or the high-speed or go-fast boat that is widely used today by boat operators and enthusiasts with an absolute need for speed. The community surrounding cigarette boats is very niche (typically for rich individuals), and the reasons behind why is it called a cigarette boat can be debated about for days. But the first thing we need to address is what these types of boats are used for.

Designed with a narrow hull and a lightweight frame or construction, cigarette boats are made for racing at ridiculously high speeds right off the coast. The performance of cigarette boats is its primary attraction in the modern era and is also a good way to invite people over for fun business trips and even family activities.

Racing is not the only reason cigarettes were built, however. In the era when rum prohibition and other law-related bans were rampant around the 1930s, rum runner groups and drug smugglers required boats that could perform with high power engines at high speeds to out-maneuver the United States Coast Guard.

Fast forward to the modern boating era, aside from water sports, the Aronow-inspired cigarettes are now designed with a lot of style. They also have powerful engines for casual or recreational luxury purposes, similar to how yachts are used for vacations or business outings.

Why is it Called a Cigarette Boat?

why is it called a cigarette boat

The question "What is a cigarette boat" is all because of legendary speedboat racer and boat designer Donald Joel Aronow. Popular during the 1960s, Aronow was famous for operating speedboat vessels, namely Magnum Marine, Cary, Donzi, Formula, and, last but not least, the speed boat Cigarette.

As a speed boat, Cigarette and Aronow were able to secure a first-place finish in the United States Championship Race. His likeness and performances with The Cigarette drove him to dispel the law-less "rum runner" persona and history of speed boats. It also led him to create a company called Cigarette during the same time period.

More than half a century later, the term cigarette boat is still retained. Aronow will go down in world history as the man who invigorated a passion for performance-oriented long, narrow vessels that can travel with power at breakneck speeds.

How is a Cigarette Boat Constructed?

Much like other boats or yachts, cigarette boat (or go-fast boat) creation or production is pretty consistent, regardless of time period, and it is more of the material used that changes throughout time.

The hull or body of the cigarette boat (or go-fast boat) is constructed with any, all, or a combination of the following: kevlar, fiberglass, and carbon fiber. The beam is intentionally designed to be narrower than the rest of the cigarette boat to create good aerodynamics, further boosting potential speeds.

Therefore, the narrow hull and materials used also provide the cigarette boat with a relatively lighter weight in comparison to the other boats that are built with larger room and cabin space.

The long frame was built to compensate for the lack of room in order to fit important mechanisms such as the engine motors and the steering wheel.

What Does a Cigarette Boat Look Like?

Moving past the Aronow, rum runner, and drugs smuggling history (for now) of cigarette boats, exactly what does a cigarette boat look like these days?

Cigarette boats were clearly built to look good in blue water, with barely any need for customs tools or customs work along the shores of popular destinations like Miami. If you take a look at a cigarette boat doing its magic offshore, you will definitely take note of the following qualities or appearances:

  • Slender frame
  • Lightweight construction
  • Narrow hull
  • World-class speeds
  • Narrow boat beam
  • Planing
  • Sleek and stylish
  • Pointed bow
  • Square stern

The History of Cigarette Boats

what does a cigarette boat look like

Donald Aronow is the definition of the long history of cigarette boats, but when it comes to speed boats in particular, we have to jump back in time a few more decades to get a better, more fascinating look at the drug and rum-laden history of cigarette boats.

Cigarette boats, formerly called powerboats or speed boats, were used in the 1930s during the prohibition period to smuggle alcohol like rum into North American territory. The speed of these boats was so good that not even the more imposing vessels could pose a threat, which is why this boat was the go-to boat for several people involved in shady businesses.

A few decades later, renowned boat enthusiast, boat designer, and mainly boat racer Donald Aronow splashed into the speed boat market with the company Cigarette, the name of which was in honor of his prize-winning speed boat, The Cigarette. The company was a huge success back in the day, despite the relatively hefty price tags.

When people bought cigarette boats, the understanding was truly along the lines of speed and agility. There was no other boat in the market that had the same type of offering.

Unfortunately, this led to even more shady businesses and individuals buying into the boat model and boat design to be used for illicit purposes. The boats manufactured by Aronow's company were used as cargo boats to ferry drug substances from one point to another.

To counteract this, the United States Coast Guard entered into an agreement with Aronow regarding the production of speedboats for authorities. In the interim, the Cigarette company was allegedly purchased from Aronow in an attempt to sabotage negotiations with the US Coast Guard (and the DEA for that matter, as the government was trying to crack down on drug distribution in certain regions in the US).

After a short while, Aronow was able to buy back the company that he founded and negotiations with the US government resumed. As a result of this supposed contract in the works, Aronow was gunned down in Miami, which was an event that was suspected to be caused by drug-related personalities in the vicinity.

Nowadays, the sad and bloody reputation of cigarette boats are mostly forgotten. Cigarette boats are now seen as a thing of the present and the future, with its natural style, design, and top-speeds attracting people from the world over. Cigarettes are associated with upscale living at its finest, similar to how yachts are viewed and appreciated.

In the speedboat industry, Cigarette is not the only big fish. Familiar brands such as Wally, Baja, Yamaha, Bertram, Skater, Fountain, Donzi, and Glasstream are also making waves in the market and the luxury enthusiast scene.

Interestingly enough, there is an alternate explanation as to the origin of these boats. According to some sources, it was actually Vannie Higgins, who was a Brooklyn gangster in the mid-1920s to early 1930s that should be credited with the popularized household name. He was an infamous rum-runner during the prohibitive period and utilized a narrow-beamed, elongated boat to scoot past authorities easily and conveniently. The name of his boat, as you may have already guessed, is "Cigarette."

The smuggling operations were a big success for Higgins, with him delivering astounding amounts of alcoholic beverages from the Canadian border to US territories. With hundreds of cases of alcohol on board his vessel, he was allegedly able to hit speeds of 50 miles per hour, which, at the time, was an immensely unreachable speed, given the load.

The Higgins attribution and the Aronow attribution do not have to be opposed to one another, in our opinion. It could be said that it was Higgins that provided Aronow with the inspiration to name his boat as such as a way to symbolize the nimbleness of his championship-winning boat.

Regardless of which explanation (or combination of explanations) is valid, there is one thing that is certain: long, slender boats are a powerhouse when it comes to quickness and agility, allowing its operator to use his vessel for a host of different intents and purposes.

How Fast Do Cigarette Boats Go?

A cigarette boat is ridiculously fast, which is why it is a beast when it comes to off-the-coast or offshore race competitions. The long and narrow body of cigarette boats, paired with its relatively light weight and ability to execute planing across the water, allows them to coast easily through most water conditions. Below is an overview of the general speeds a cigarette boat can hit in different circumstances.

  • Calm waters, a standard cigarette boat can reach a speed of up to 200 miles per hour.
  • Bumpy water conditions, a standard cigarette boat can hit a speed of approximately 150 miles per hour.
  • Ocean water conditions, a standard cigarette boat can achieve a speed of 100 miles per hour.

Take note, however, that cigarette boats vary from model to model, with some boats being extra long for extra carrying capacity and passenger load, and some boats having throttled speed configurations for safety.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do they call it a cigarette boat?

Alternatively called a go-fast boat, a cigarette boat is called as such because Donald Aronow, who is credited with the design and performance of powerboats or speedboats, named his boat "The Cigarette."

What are cigarette boats used for?

Back then, cigarette boats were designed and created to traverse through waters at high speeds. This type of boat functioned as a means of transportation that could outpace authorities such as the United States Coast Guard in order to smuggle illegal items such as liquor (rum) and drugs to and from the United States of America during the period of prohibition. In modern times, cigarette boats are now utilized for recreational and water sports purposes.

How much does a cigarette boat cost?

When talking about brand new models, expect to find high-performance boats equipped with top-end engine specifications sold at upwards of $500,000. If you are in the market for used or second-hand models, you would easily be able to find a couple of models sold at around the $300,000 - $400,000 price range or even lower for the lower-end models.

Is Cigarette a brand of boats?

Yes, Cigarette is actually a brand of a particular boat model known as a powerboat. The origin of the Cigarette brand is traced back to Donald Aronow, an esteemed professional racer and designer, who founded the company in the 1960s. Besides sleek speed boat models or powerboat models, the Aronow-founded company now has a decent foot in the sleek yacht model and superyacht model markets.

How fast do cigarette boats go?

Cigarette boats can reach top speeds of approximately 200 mph (174 knots) in flat or calm water conditions, 150 mph (130 knots) in bumpy water conditions, and 100 mph (87 knots) in ocean water environments.

Where are Cigarette boats made?

Cigarette boats are generally made in North America, with a newly opened production facility in Florida.


What is a cigarette boat? At this point, we trust that you should be able to answer that very question. Whether it be a discussion on speed, the cigarette boat's relation to drug use and distribution, the long story of rum-running in the pre-1960s period, or the Miami occurrence, this guide has your back!

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