Why Are Cuban Cigars Illegal in the US?

Man Smoking Cuban Cigar

Why Are Cuban Cigars Illegal in the US?

Widely considered one of the best countries to produce cigars, learn why Cuban cigars are illegal throughout the US, including in Tampa, Florida. 

Cuban cigars hold a stellar reputation for being some of the best in the world, often being used in film and T.V. to show off a person’s social status. In the U.S.A., however, Cuban cigars are illegal and cannot be imported into the country, even for personal consumption unlike previous years. But why is this? Let’s take a closer look.

How Did The Cuban Cigar Go From Prized Cigar to Illegal Import?

The ban on Cuban cigars entering the United States dates back to 1962 when a trade embargo was established by John F. Kennedy. Kennedy stopped all imports from Cuba from entering the country due to Cuba’s communist government and its links with the Soviet Union. Cuba was closely linked to the Soviet Union, allowing it to plan military exercises from the country – their closeness shown through the Soviet Union’s links to the Cuban Missile Crisis later that year.

The embargo was a direct attempt to weaken the power of Communist countries during the Cold War. In the eyes of the U.S., allowing exports from the country was supporting communism, so the embargo was put in place.

During the embargo, which has lasted for over 60 years, the maximum penalty for smuggling in a prized Cuban cigar to the country was at one point $55,000. During this time, domestic cigar manufacturing began to flourish - and still continues to flourish - especially in Tampa, FL. There has, however, been a shift in policy since the 1960s.

Cuban Cigar Laws Changed Under Obama and Trump Presidencies.

The first major change in laws relating to U.S. trade occurred under the Obama administration. Obama, during his time in office, made significant efforts to try and repair relations with Cuba. One of the steps in doing so was to ease restrictions on the import of Cuban cigars to America. If Americans were visiting the island, they were now legally allowed to bring 100 cigars or four boxes back into the country as long as they were only for personal use and not resale.

This deal was, however, rescinded in September 2020 when Trump tightened relations with Cuba yet again. Again, Americans were not allowed to bring in any Cuban cigars or other products, even if only for personal use.

Many have tried to find ways around these restrictive laws, however, there is also legislation to prevent this. It is illegal to bring in any Cuban-origin products from anywhere outside the U.S.A, meaning that buyers cannot simply travel to Mexico or Canada, for example, to purchase and bring cigars back into the country.

The Future of Cuban Cigars in the U.S.A and Tampa, FL. 

Will cigar bars in Tampa ever see Cuban cigars line their humidors? 

Due to the ever-changing, flip-flopping U.S. policy, the future for Cuban cigars in the States is not clear. It is important to note that there are some cigar retailers within the U.S. who claim to sell authentic Cuban cigars, however, scientific testing has shown that over 95% of these are not authentic.

What is increasing is the number of Americans that believe relations with Cuba should be improved, with trade embargos abolished. This is especially true of the younger generations. With that in mind, it is not hard to believe that authentic Cuban cigars could be making their way to the U.S. market in the future.

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