BRINGING CUBAN CIGARS INTO THE U.S
II) COMMON QUESTIONS ABOUT CIGARS
III) HOW TO TELL REAL FROM FAKE
(I) BRINGING CUBAN CIGARS INTO THE U.S. –Legal situation
For over 50 years, it has been illegal to bring Cuban cigars into the United
States. (There are a few minor exceptions for officially-sanctioned trips and
diplomats, but if you were in that category, you wouldn’t have to read this,
would you?) This rule applies, no matter where the cigars were purchased.
Americans can bring in up to 50 cigars from any other country in the world
however Canadians can bring back up to 50 cigars from any country in the world,
including Cuba, when they return to Canada.
If you are caught bringing back Cuban cigars into the U.S for personal
consumption, the cigars the cigars will be confiscated. Technically, they can
fine you or jail you, but this hasn’t happened in 40 years. It should be noted,
however, that U.S. Customs has never defined “personal consumption” although the
rule of thumb seems to be 3 or 4 boxes. If you are found to be bringing in
larger volumes of cigars for commercial reasons, do so at your own risk!
Tricks of trade
Fist of all, DON’T BE GREEDY. If you take back more than 3 or 4 boxes, you risk
being fined. You must decide for yourself how much expense and effort you want
to expend to protect your investment. Here are some options to consider:
1. For the extremely-lazy: Leave the cigars in the original box, with the
original bands, and place them at the bottom of a purse (ideally) or at the
bottom of a carry-on bag. If you’re caught, plead ignorance, since you didn’t
think the “cuba rule” applied for products purchased in Mexico.
2. For the moderately-lazy: Remove the cigars from original box and place in an
empty Mexican cigar box of equal size. If stopped, claim they are from Mexico
(may not work with Cohiba bands).
3. For the lightly-motivated: As above, but also remove the cigar bands.
Impossible for U.S. Customs to determine origin. Unfortunately neither can
4. For the moderately-motivated: Remove the cigars and their bands and give them
to a travel companion. Make sure you’re at least 10 people apart when you clear
customs, and remember you are traveling alone. Of either person gets questioned,
you shouldn’t have any trouble. Re-unite the band, cigars, and box when you
return to the States.
5. For the highly-motivated: For every box of Cuban cigars you buy, buy a
similar size box of Mexican cigars. Swap bands and boxes. Enjoy the Mexican
cigars when you are in Mexico, and you can bring the Cuban cigars back
undetected. Takes a little time and investment, but its virtually foolproof.
(II) COMMON QUESTIONS ABOUT CIGARS
Q: What’s the best cigar you have?
A: It depends on what kind of cigars you like, and what your budget is.
Generally, Cuban cigars are the best in the world because of the Cuban tobacco
leaf. If that’s beyond your budget, we have nice selection of Mexican cigars
that range in price from $4 to $10.
Q: What is the mildest cigar you have?
A: The mildest Cuban cigar we have is Fonseca. The Te Amo is a mild, hand-rolled
Mexican cigar. They are similar to Macanudo or a Dominican cigar.
Q: What happens if I get caught bringing Cuban cigars?
A: If you are bringing a few boxes or less, they’ll confiscate them.
Q: How do I know that they are real Cuban cigars?
A: The most important factor is were you buy the cigars. For example, the owner
of cabo cigars works with the official distribuitor of Habanos SA. She checks
each box personally for correct box seals, cigar sizes and colors, cigar bands,
proper boxes and many other details. Cabo cigars stores have been selling
authentic Cuban cigars since 1994 in Cabo. If the price seems too good to be
true, it probably is.
Q: Why are Cuban cigars so expensive?
A: They are a handmade product and there is a world wide shortage of Cuban
cigars. It’s the old story of supply and demand. Typically our cigars sell for
less than half they cost in the United States.
Q: Why can I buy the same cigar cheaper somewhere else?
A: This is a very competitive business, but we won’t be undersold. Remember, you
have to compare apples to apples. What kind of place you are buying them form?
Do you have confidence they are real? Are they fresh, and have they been stored
in a humidor? In general, you get what you pay for. How much was this cigar
elsewhere? (If realistic, we will beat price).
Q: What’s the best way of transporting cigars?
A: A travel humidor. You can a make a cheap one by putting a damp sponge in
Tupperware. Don’t let the cigar make direct contact with sponge.
Q: How can I tell if cigar is fresh?
A: Gently squeeze it. If it is hard or crunches, it is dry, stale, and has not
been stored in a humidor.
(III) HOW TO TELL REAL FROM FAKE
Many of our customers are concerned about differentiating between real and fake
Cuban cigars. Considering the price of Cuban cigars, we certainly understand
why! Here’s 7 ways to separate real Cubans from fakes:
1. Government stickers. There are 3 different types: green, white, and black.
The attached article deals with the green and white stickers. Black stickers say
“AQUI, Su Garantia, Habanos, Unicos desde 1492". They are self adhesive stickers
applied to the front of the box.
2. Factory codes. These are stamped on the bottom of the box and indicate the
place and date of manufacture. For example, FPG OSSC means the cigars were made
at the Partagas plant in September 1997. Factory codes have changed in recent
years (see other article).
3. Cigar bands. The bands should all be facing front, at roughly the same
height. There are many fake bands. One of the more common fakes are the Cohiba
band that has a single (instead of double row) of white cubes above the letters
“Cohiba”. Another is the Romeo y Julieta band that doesn’t have embossed print.
4. Cigar boxes. The finish of the box, its size, its clasp, and its cedar liner
should all authentic. A couple of things to watch for: 1. Real Cubans have cedar
liners with a tiny curved section (not straight) removed from the top right hand
corner; 2. Cohibas have unvarnished bottoms.
5. Cigar sizes. Cuban cigars are made to exact size specifications. These
specifications are listed in cigar reference books, such as Cigar Afficianado.
For example, a Cohiba Robusto is 5" long and has a ring gauge of 50 (i.e. a
width of 50/64 inches). Fakes are often too short, too thin, or vary in size too
much. Ask the store if they have a reference book and a ruler.
6. Cigar packaging. Cuban cigars are packaged in boxes with other cigars of
roughly the same color. If there is a slight variation in shade, the cigars will
be packed from left to right in order of increasing lightness of color. They
will be packed very tightly, sometimes giving an almost squarish shape to the
cigar. Real Cuban handmade cigars are never individually wrapped in cellophane.
Screw tops on individual aluminum tubes don’t easily fall off. (Although,
occasionally, even real Cuban have this problem).
7. Common sense. If everybody in town is selling a particular brand of cigars
for $20 to $25 each, how can a little drug store, street vendor, or even a cigar
shop sell you the same cigar for $10? Like most things in life, you get what you
pay for. If its too good a deal to be true, it probably isn’t.
That concludes our little information package on Cuban cigars. We hope it helped
you. It will certainly help us, because well-informed customers are our best
In addition, possibly the most important decision you make is where you purchase
the cigars. You are more likely to find real Cuban cigar in an established
tobacco shop which has a good reputation, humidified storage, and knowledgeable
staff. (WE OFFER A GURANTEE).