Why Are Cuban Cigars Illegal in the US?


As a cigar lover in the UK, you may take for granted the relative ease at which you can enjoy a delicious smoke from a Cuban cigar. 

Things are a little trickier for aficionados across the pond, where Cuban cigars are actually illegal. 

But why are Cuban cigars illegal in the US? We explore the history behind this decision and how the rules regarding Cuban cigars have changed in recent years. 

Why Are Cigars Illegal in the US?

The reason that Cuban cigars are illegal in the United States is down to the trade embargo that was put in place between the US and Cuba in February 1962.

The embargo was established under John F. Kennedy’s leadership, and it put a stop to all imports from Cuba.

This was done as a way of taking a stand against Fidel Castro’s Communist regime and attempting to weaken his power during the Cold War. 

Sixty years on, and the embargo remains in place.

Fidel Castro and the Cuban Cigar Industry

When Castro took charge, he began to nationalise the industries, including the production of cigars. Tobacco-growing farmland and cigar-making factories were seized, and brands fell under the control of the government.

All cigar operations now run through the Cuban state tobacco company, Cubatabaco. Cubatabaco owns Habanos S.A., who control the promotion, distribution and exportation of Cuban cigars around the world.

Parallel Brands

With their farmland taken from their control, many leaders in the Cuban tobacco industry fled the country and started their tobacco plantations and factories again in new locations, such as Central America and Miami.

Over ten years later, a landmark legal case allowed for the original Cuban owners to sell non-Cuban versions of their cigars under the original brand name they had created in Cuba.

This is why there are sometimes two cigar brands with the same name – such as Montecristo, Partagas and Romeo y Julieta.

Despite having the same name and both offering cigars, there isn’t really competition between the brands due to rules established during the case. The parallel brands can only be sold in the United States, where Cuban cigars aren’t allowed to be sold. The cigars also cannot contain Cuban tobacco due to the embargo.

Therefore, as they can only be sold in the US where Cuba can’t trade, Cuba doesn’t lose out on cigar sales from the existence of these brands.

Changing Rules for Cuban Cigar Exports

Under his administration, President Obama made steps to repair relations with Cuba by easing some of the restrictions on Cuban cigars entering the United States. 

Until 2020, Americans could bring up to 100 cigars or four boxes of cigars back from Cuba duty-free in their baggage, as long as they were for personal use and not for commercial purposes.

However, unfortunately for cigar lovers in the States, President Trump made the regulations much stricter in September 2020. Now, you are unable to return to the United States with alcohol or tobacco acquired in Cuba, even if it is a gift or for personal use. 

Loopholes have also been considered, as you are also unable to bring Cuban products back into America from other countries. For example, you couldn’t go on holiday, buy some Cuban cigars in the UK and then take them home. 

However, if you really crave a Cuban cigar, then you can always travel to Cuba and enjoy them while over there! 

Cuban Cigars in the UK

Luckily for cigar smokers in the UK, it is pretty easy to get your hands on a Cuban smoke. Cuban cigars are imported and distributed to cigar shops in the UK through Hunters & Frankau, who help check the quality of the received goods to ensure they are suitable for sale. 

Here at Havana House, you can find a wide range of Cuban cigars to enjoy. Which will be your favourite? 

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