Written by Puff Staff

Saturday, 30 March 2013

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altLast week, we gave a little background on the 50-year-old Cuban trade embargo and some reasons for finally ending it. This week, we’ll take a look at possible results of the ban finally being lifted and Cuban cigars becoming available in the U.S. again. Also, we give you the scoop on the hippest tour of summer 2013—which will have a cigar roller on staff—and some very sexy smokes.




While cigar lovers eagerly look forward to the day when the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba is lifted, there’s one group that can’t be too happy about the prospect—the rest of the cigar industry. If and when this happens, how will it affect those now providing the U.S. with premium cigars?



In 2009, John Anderson, owner of W. Curtis Draper Tobacconist Inc. in Washington D.C. was interviewed for an article in Bloomberg. This was shortly after the Obama administration eased some restrictions on trade with Cuba, raising hopes that the embargo might soon be a thing of the past, and Cuban cigars would become legally available for the first time in decades.

Anderson summed up the appeal of Cuban cigars. “There's a mystique about a Cuban. Cuban tobacco has become the forbidden fruit.” But will that fruit be as sweet when it’s no longer forbidden?



This move by the feds also set off a battle between two cigar makers over the rights to sell Cuban cigar brands in the U.S. when it becomes legal to do so. The dispute between Imperial Tobacco Group Plc of Bristol, England, and Swedish Match AB of Stockholm is just one matter that would have to be resolved if commerce with Cuba is going to resume. The fact that these two giants have been engaging in a legal and PR battle for several years is one more indication that the embargo may soon be thing of the past.

Cuban cigars have long been revered as the finest in the world, in part due to the low acidity of the country’s soil and its temperate climate. But are all Cuban cigars automatically superior to those from other countries like Honduras or Nicaragua?

Not according to Benjamin Menendez, whose family fled Cuba after the Castro regime confiscated his family’s cigar company Menendez y Garcia. “People are told they have a Cuban and they immediately assume they are good,” he told Bloomberg, adding that if/when Cuban cigars become widely available in the U.S., “a lot of people are going to be disappointed.”

What Menendez says is likely to be true. If/when the ban is lifted, the demand for Cuban cigars in the U.S. is certain to skyrocket, because even casual cigar smokers will be anxious to try out what they’ve been missing all these years. That could mean that the cigars brands produced by other countries will take a hit.

Unfortunately, that increased demand will probably result in lower quality, causing disappointment. That disappointment could send cigar smokers right back to their old faorite non-Cuban cigars, but the process might take several years and negatively impact the brands from other tobacco-growing countries.

The Cuban cigar industry could sure use the influx of U.S. dollars right now, as it’s been suffering from the effects of the worldwide recession as well as the increasing popularity of smoking bans in public places. In addition, the trade embargo has allowed other cigar-producing countries, notably Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic to gain a bigger piece of the market by making cigars that are comparable in quality to those from Cuba.



Just because Cuban cigars become more available doesn’t mean they’ll be cheap. In 2008, shortly after Fidel Castro resigned as Cuba’s president, Swedish Match Chief Financial Officer Lars Dahlgren told Bloomberg, “There’s no way you can serve Europe and the US if Cuban cigars became big in the US. If consumers would demand the same quality of cigars, prices would skyrocket.”

That doesn’t mean Dahlgren and Swedish Match aren’t getting ready for the embargo to be lifted. “We are prepared for this to happen sometime. The US is our most important premium cigar market. If the US consumer wants Cuban cigars, we will seek to share that segment of the market.”

So even if the ban is lifted, Cuban cigars will still be pricey and hard to get, even if they’re legal. Also, just because the embargo ends won’t mean that you can expect to find a selection of Cuban cigars in the local tobacco store right away. Wading through all the regulations on the tobacco business in the U.S. could take years.

Then there’s another possible problem that may present itself by the time the trade embargo is lifted, and that’s the threats by the FDA to regulate premium cigars. If the government agency sees fit to clamp down on the way cigars are sold, that could take a lot of the fun out of buying those Cuban cigars, when we finally get them.

Next week, we’ll look at the politics surrounding the embargo today. Which pols are likely to support lifting the embargo—and who’s against it?

Next up is Jay-Z being Jay-Z and a limited edition cigar that is sure to be a conversation starter.


0 # turtlesfuckstidk 2013-03-31 18:22

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0 # Hmmmm....DamselNotInDistress 2013-03-31 23:46
* I just foresee a number of small and independent B&M owners putting fake Cuban cigar bands on a lot of local and domestic handmades and passing them off as Cubans during the Embargo's lifting.

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0 # Mr.Jack splattttttt 2013-04-10 22:04
what Turtle sayz. And the FDA can kiss my arse!

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