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Monday, 25 February 2008

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Cuban cigar aficionados shouldn't hold their collective breaths waiting for the trade smoke to lift after last week's surprise resignation by President Fidel Castro.

State Department officials said the United States is not planning to lift its trade embargo against Cuba, even after the 81-year-old communist leader quit Tuesday.

"I can't imagine that happening any time soon," Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte said.

Still, the news buoyed the dreams of cigar shop owners -- and probably smokers -- in mid-Michigan. Americans consume nearly 10 billion cigars a year, the Washington, D.C.-based Cigar Association of America says.

Cuban cigars, illegal in the U.S., are especially coveted by smokers. Michiganders are occasionally known to spirit Cuban cigars into the country from Canada, where they are available.

If the U.S.-Cuba trade embargo were eased, however, some say the cigar trade likely would get a boost.


Keith A. Boesnecker, 55, the owner of Frankenmuth Original Cigar Co., 135 S. Franklin in Frankenmuth lights up one of his specialty Fat Rum Tavern cigars.

"The cigar boom is coming back again -- even though our rights have been taken away," said Keith A. Boesnecker, owner of the Frankenmuth Original Cigar Co., referring to the increasing number of indoor smoking bans around the country.

"The popularity of cigars has to do with being associated with the good life and are in fashion, even among women -- who have come out of the closet to smoke them."

His business, at 135 S. Franklin, rolls and sells its own cigars. When Michigan's economy stabilizes, Boesnecker hopes to open a cigar and coffee lounge.

"That's been my goal all along," said Boesnecker, who is celebrating his 10th year at the Franklin Street location.

Read the rest of this story on The Saginaw News




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