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  • Writer's pictureTom Fowler

Why Are Cuban Cigars Illegal?

As a cigar lover in the US, you may take for granted the minimal effort with which you can enjoy a tasty Cuban cigar.

When it comes to cigar lovers on the other side of the Atlantic, where Cuban cigars are outlawed, things are a little more complicated.

The question is why are Cuban cigars illegal in the United States? We look at the background of this decision as well as how the rules on Cuban cigars have evolved in recent years.

The Cuban Revolution and Fidel Castro’s Rise to Power

The Cuban Revolution and Fidel Castro’s Rise to Power

We can't discuss the history of Cuban cigars without addressing Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz, also known as "El Caballo" by Cubans. Castro, a committed Marxist–Leninist, who strove to advance socialism and Marxism in Cuba.

In his opinion, Cuban authorities had handed too much power to the United States. As a result, in 1953, Fidel Castro led a failed attack on Moncada Barracks in an attempt to topple the Cuban government and President Fulgencio Batista.

On February 16, 1959, Fidel Castro seized power and was sworn in as Prime Minister. From there, he began consolidating his power by seizing land and businesses belonging to wealthy Cubans and foreigners.

The Divide Grows Deeper

Following his appointment as Prime Minister, in 1959, Castro embarked on a so-called "charm offensive" in the United States. However, President Dwight D. Eisenhower declined to meet with Castro, demonstrating his disdain for America. Instead, Eisenhower assigned Richard Nixon, his Vice President, to meet with Castro. Fidel had an instant disdain for Nixon, according to legend.

Then came the Bay of Pigs Invasion, which was an attempt to assert power by deploying a ship on the coast of Cuba to build a beachhead. This attempt failed, aggravating the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, with Cuba caught in the midst.

With the start of the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962, tensions between the US and Cuba erupted at the height of the Cold War. The Missile Crisis lasted 13 days and involved the United States and the Soviet Union. The conflict began when the United States found that the Soviet Union had placed ballistic missiles in Cuba. This clash is commonly regarded as the world's closest brush with nuclear war.

Why Were Cuban Cigars Illegal in the United States?

As a response to Fidel Castro's communist regime, Kennedy imposed a strict trade embargo on Cuba in 1962, which has been in place for nearly 50 years.

The Cuban economy had suffered greatly as a result of the United States' strong stance against welcoming Cuba as a trading partner. In the months running up to the embargo, many Cuban cigar manufacturers and importers increased their stockpiles in the United States.

Furthermore, the embargo on trade with Cuba, on the other hand, would outlast the supply of Cuban cigars legitimately imported into the United States. Cuban cigars are now extremely uncommon and highly wanted, and they can only be obtained through unlawful methods, such as underground sources and the black market.

Following the Cuban embargo, the premium cigar business in Cuba saw a large migration of its top tobacco growers and blenders, who moved to Miami and other Central American countries to continue producing cigars for the American market.

Cuban Cigars: One by One

In 2014, half a century after President John F. Kennedy imposed trade sanctions against Cuba, the laws controlling Cuban cigars were partially relaxed, allowing Americans to take home $100 worth of Cuban cigars and no more.

After further relaxation of Cuban cigar prohibitions, the US allowed American tourists to bring an endless amount of Cuban cigars home in their carry-on baggage two years later, as long as the cigars were for individual consumption and not for retail purposes.

Although the future of Cuban cigars remains unknown, the door is now open wider than it has been in ages.

Is the Embargo Ever Going to Be Lifted?

The relationship between the United States and Cuba has changed significantly after Fidel Castro's death in November 2016. Despite efforts by some to rally support for easing the embargo, the Cuban Trade Embargo is predicted to continue in place.

In fact, in 2004, the embargo was tightened even more. President Obama, on the other hand, had lately loosened some travel and financial limitations for US residents.

Previously, even while going overseas, US residents were unable to lawfully get or consume Cuban cigars. They can now legally smoke Cuban cigars and give them as gifts to friends and family, but they cannot buy or sell them.

The Future of Cuban Cigars

Cuban tobacco producers are well aware of the market potential for cigars in the United States, as well as the financial benefits that could result from the negotiation of a standardized trading policy. Cuba's appeal as a U.S. vacation destination, and thus a source of Cuban cigars for American travelers, is fragile at best, as the country attempts to become a competitive developed nation.

When the U.S. Cuba route was formally reopened in 2016, tourism surged but shortly faded. While the prospect of bringing home a good load of genuine Cuban cigars has piqued the interest of many cigar enthusiasts, traveling to Cuba is not as appealing as many had hoped.

Furthermore, despite relaxed trade barriers, the legendary Cuban cigar has lost substantial market shares to cigars from the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua in recent decades.

Many of the most popular premium cigar brands in the United States are blended and made by Cuban households. Generations of knowledge have been passed down to other countries that trade with the United States.

Top-selling cigar companies such as Arturo Fuente, Padron, Ashton, and Davidoff have been manufacturing top-selling cigars for the American market for decades. At the end of the day, these brands' exceptional reputations would only serve to raise the standard for Cuban cigars.

As of 2017, the most cigar lovers can expect is that Cuban cigars may continue to be available (although in limited quantities) due to loosened travel restrictions. While the future is uncertain, Cuban cigars are likely to be more than a passing interest if the embargo is lifted.

What Happens If You Get Caught with a Cuban Cigar?

Despite the fact that Cuban cigars are illegal in the United States, some people manage to smuggle them in. Realize that this is a criminal offense with severe repercussions.

Travelers caught possessing Cuban cigars, whether for resale or personal consumption, may incur penalties in the United States. The seriousness of the case determines the penalties. This might vary from product confiscation to a penalty to a criminal action.

Can I Buy Cuban Cigars Online in the US in 2021?

A fast internet search may turn up several websites claiming to deliver you genuine Cuban cigars. Don't be fooled by this idea, no matter how appealing it is.

Even after tourists were permitted to carry Cuban cigars into the country, the sale and commercial import of cigars remained forbidden in the United States. Buying Cuban cigars over the internet was never permitted.

With the tightening of regulations on Cuban products, purchasing these cigars over the internet has become an even riskier proposition. You may be placing yourself at risk of facing significant consequences.

Please keep in mind that the most recent modification in regulations is only a few months old. Not all online stores and importers have refreshed their information on their websites. If you decide to order anyhow, you risk paying for a product that never arrives.

When Did Cuban Cigars Become Legal?

In 2014, it became permitted to bring Cuban cigars into the country for personal consumption. However, beginning September 2020, all imports of Cuban items, including cigars, were prohibited yet again.

Can I Bring Cuban Cigars in My Carry On?

Travelers are not permitted to transport Cuban cigars into the United States as of September 2020, due to new restrictions on Cuban products. This also relates to personal items in carry-on luggage.

Do You Have to Declare Cuban Cigars?

Cuban tobacco products were prohibited from entering the United States as of September 2020. You would be breaking the law if you brought Cuban cigars in your carry-on or checked luggage.

What’s So Special About Cuban Cigars?

What’s So Special About Cuban Cigars?

These cigars stand out because they are created with high-quality materials and each one is handcrafted with great care and attention. In fact, it is estimated that the production of a single Cuban cigar involves over 100 processes. The industry adheres to a strict cigar-making process that hasn't evolved much in the last century or so. Another feature that distinguishes these cigars from those created in other nations is its meticulous attention to detail.


In the United States, it is prohibited to import Cuban cigars for business or private consumption. This is due to the political connections between the United States and Cuba, not the composition of these cigarette products.

Unfortunately, the days of bringing in a box of Cuban cigars are no longer available. You have to settle for the great cigars from Central and South America for the moment being.

For more criminal offense legal information such as Iowa's fireworks laws or why moonshine is illegal, contact one of the best personal injury attorneys in Des Moines, IA, Tom Fowler.

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