There is no cigar like a Cuban cigar. Hours before employing the famous 1962 trade embargo illegalizing the importation of Cuban cigars, President John F. Kennedy ordered an aide to purchase as many Cuban cigars as possible. Are Cuban cigars legal in the United States now? Here’s a complete guide.
What Are Cuban Cigars?
Cuban cigars are world-renowned cigars made solely with Cuban tobacco. Due to their purer tobacco content, Cuban cigars have a more robust, authentic smoke than other types of cigars.
The most reputable Cuban cigar brands are Montecristo, Cohiba, Hoyo De Monterrey, Partagas, and Romeo y Julieta. Cohiba, quite possibly the most famous Cuban cigar, was produced to satisfy Fidel Castro and was not even available to the general public until 1982.
Are Cuban Cigars Legal in the United States?
Cuban cigars are NOT legal in the United States of America. In 1962 President John F. Kennedy signed a severe trade embargo in response to Fidel Castro’s communist takeover of Cuba. Until recently, the cigars were legal from 2014 through most of 2020 with certain restrictions.
Why Are Cuban Cigars Illegal in the United States?
Cuban cigars are illegal in the United States due to a rocky relationship between the two countries. The United States imposed the regulations in response to Cuba’s move to communism and aid given to the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
In 2014, the Obama administration eased rules, legalizing Cuban cigars for American citizens. However, the Trump administration majorly toughened the restrictions at the end of 2020, illegalizing Cuban cigars and even most travel through new strict lodging laws.
In light of the recent Cuban anti-communist protests and their government’s harsh response, the relationship and sanctions have not improved, and Cuban cigars will most likely remain illegal throughout 2021.
A History of Regulations
A complex history of regulations, the United States has maintained strict trade rules with Cuba since the early 1900s, most notably beginning with the Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917, forbidding arms trading. The Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 threatened to uphold the arms ban unless Cuba took steps toward democratization.
After worsening relations between Cuba and the United States, President John F. Kennedy signed the strict trade embargo banning Cuban cigars and other Cuban-made goods in 1962. The Cuban Assets Control Regulations of 1963 strengthened the existing trade embargo.
The Cuban Democracy Act of 1992 enforced sanctions, while the Helms-Burton Act of 1996 extended the trade embargo to include Cuba and countries that trade with Cuba. The sanctions were further enforced by the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000.
In 2014 the regulations eased, and Americans traveling from Cuba were permitted to bring back up to $100 worth of Cuban cigars. 2016 saw these regulations further reduced with no purchase limit on cigars intended for personal use.
However, in late 2020 sanctions were reinstated and toughened, forbidding the importation of cigars, tobacco, and rum, making travel to Cuba extremely difficult by prohibiting lodging at government-owned hotels.
The Relationship Between the United States and Cuba
The relationship between Cuba and the United States is and has been highly strained. In 1959 Fidel Castro successfully overthrew the existing US-backed Cuban government, replacing it with a Soviet-backed communist regime.
Following the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, the Soviet Union installed nuclear warheads on Cuba, increasing the tensions of the Cold War. In 1982 President Regan named Cuba a state sponsor of terrorism due to their support of certain military groups in Central America.
Entering the 21st century, the existing sanctions and strains remained. President Obama eased regulations in 2014 and 2016, miraculously normalizing diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba for the first time since 1959.
However, the strict rules re-imposed in 2020 reversed this progress, and with the rising humanitarian crisis in 2021, the relations and policies have become even more complex.
Can You Buy Cuban Cigars Online?
No, you cannot legally purchase Cuban cigars online, despite plenty of tobacco websites claiming you can order Cuban cigars and guaranteeing their delivery. Nearly 95% of all cigars sold in the United States claiming to be Cuban cigars are not authentic.
With the severe penalties for purchasing the contraband product paired with a high percentage of fraudulent cigars, most people don’t find the risk of attempting to buy these cigars online worth it.
What Happens If You’re Caught with a Cuban Cigar?
The punishment for possessing Cuban cigars can range from confiscation to a severe fine to a criminal charge. It can be challenging to determine what sort of charge you’ll face in advance.
With penalties increasing due to the increasingly complex relationship between Cuba and the United States, many find purchasing and possessing Cuban cigars just too risky.
How Can Americans Buy Cuban Cigars?
The only way for an American to legally buy a Cuban cigar is to travel to Cuba and smoke it while there. However, traveling is complicated due to the 2020 regulations, making lodging at a government-owned facility illegal. All Cuban hotels are government-backed, making it nearly impossible for American tourists to visit the island successfully.
Otherwise, American politicians, journalists, and a few other specialized occupations can obtain a license allowing them to purchase contraband for uniquely approved work-related reasons.
Considering the current state of relations between the United States and Cuba, it is unlikely regulations will ease, so here are some Cuban cigar alternatives.