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Cuban Cigars

Can You Bring Cuban Cigars Back from Cuba?

J. Bennett Alexander Alexander's picture

J. Bennett Alexander

For a brief, shining moment in 2015, it seemed that a slight amount of sanity had crept into the US relationship with Cuba. That is, unless you’re of the belief that ANY dealings or openings in that relationship are akin to dealing with the devil. If you’re of that opinion, then your world makes sense again. Why?

CAN YOU BRING CUBAN CIGARS BACK FROM CUBA?

The simple answer is, “No, Cuban cigars are illegal.” President Donald Trump reinstated a hard line against Cuba and now no Cuban goods can be brought into the United States. The US Customs and Border Protection website explains the current regulations quite simply.

Effective September 24, 2020, authorized travelers may no longer return to the United States with alcohol and/or tobacco products acquired in Cuba as accompanied baggage for personal use.

Persons authorized to travel to Cuba may purchase alcohol and tobacco products while in Cuba for personal consumption in Cuba.

Persons subject to United States jurisdiction may purchase or acquire Cuban-origin merchandise, including alcohol and tobacco products, while in a third country for personal consumption outside the United States.

While President Joe Biden promised a review of US policy towards Cuba, that has not happened yet.

HOW CAN I GET CUBAN CIGARS INTO THE US?

The simple answer, again, is you cannot do so legally. That said, usually the biggest risk you take is having the cigars you’re trying to “import” confiscated by US Customs. These days, with Global Entry and a somewhat benign view on the part of some customs officers, you COULD get some cigars into the country. Given the price of Cuban cigars, the question is whether that’s a risk you want to take.

Candidly, the easiest way to get Cuban cigars these days is to order them from a reputable online seller. The best of these are based in free-trade zones in places like Geneva, Switzerland, and sell Cuban cigars at better prices than most places outside of Cuba itself. Of course, this too is illegal. But from my reporting, I’ve found that the cigars do arrive and are generally of high quality.

HOW MANY CIGARS CAN I BRING BACK FROM CUBA?

This is something many friends ask me. I then ask them, how are you getting to Cuba in the first place? Most tourism is severely restricted if you’re a US citizen. Spending money in Cuba is frowned upon by the US Treasury Department. Sure, you could get to Cuba through countries like Mexico, but the answer to the above question is “zero.” No cigars.

WAIT A MINUTE, WHY DO I THINK I CAN BRING CUBAN CIGARS TO THE US?

You’re probably remembering with some glee when President Barack Obama began opening up to Cuba late in 2014. In 2015, you were able to bring back a limited number of Cuban goods, including cigars. So, to restate, you cannot legally bring Cuban cigars into the US. Period.

If you happen to go to Cuba or another country that sells Cuban cigars, buy them and smoke them there. Then, when you return to the US, smoke even better cigars from Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, and Honduras. That’s my recommendation.

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