In 1962, right before United States President John F. Kennedy signed the trade embargo against Cuba, he asked his Media Director Pierre Salinger to get him all the Cuban cigars that were available in town. He wanted at least “1,000 Petit Upmanns.” Salinger came back with 1,200 of them. Kennedy then signed the embargo making the importation of Cuban Cigars into the United States illegal. He tried to exempt cigars from the embargo but was warned that it would be a political mistake. Since then about 90% of the Cuban cigars you get in the United States are fakes.
On July 20, 2015 the United States and Cuba restored their diplomatic relations. President Barack Obama and Raul Castro, at the behest of Pope Francis who served as mediator during 18 months of secret negotiations that led to the resumption of diplomatic relations between the two countries, entered into a formal agreement by which the United States officially recognizes Cuba. As a result, many expect the embargo to eventually be lifted or that President Obama will use his Executive powers to exclude hand made cigars from the embargo. He can do that simply by including Cuban Cigars within the definition of handcrafted works of art, already exempt from the embargo. However, it is unclear if there are any imminent changes to the rules regarding Cuban Cigars and their legal importation.
Thus far the U.S. government hasn’t come up with policies or regulations allowing the importation of cigars from Cuba. At least publicly. Currently only tourists to the island are allowed to bring back $100 worth of Cuban Cigars. At today’s prices, that just a handful.
Historically the United States has had many of high profile celebrities and government officials who have continued to smoke Cuban cigars, even with an embargo in place. Ted Kennedy was a main example. He never stopped smoking the cigars that his brother outlawed. Another is Bill Clinton, who smoked them while being President. We do, however, recognize that Bill Clinton smokes many non-Cubans and actually prefers them to Cubans. One of his favorites is the Berger & Argenti Entubar Quad Maduro. Barack Obama is another avid smoker, though he claims to have stopped. Obama led the successful charge to raise the tax on cigars by over 800%, the biggest tax increase on cigars in this country’s history.
Future Presidents also likes cigars. Senator Marco Rubio, the first Cuban-American to ever run for President, is an avid cigar smoker. He enjoys them regularly. Marco Rubio occasionally enjoys a Don Kiki Red Label but his fave is the Montecristo White Label. He prefers non-Cubans and supports the current embargo until Cuba ceases its violations of human rights. Other Presidential candidates also smoke cigars, but not on a regular basis.
Among the celebrities who enjoy Cuban cigars on a regular basis are Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Jay-Z, Ludacris, Bill Cosby, Jack Nicholson, Bruce Willis, Tom Cruise, John Travolta and many others. Many also prefer non-Cubans.
It’s been around 54 years since the embargo against Cuba was signed into law and throughout that time many U.S. cigar companies have been evolving. The cigar industry in the United States has been booming with cigars from Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Honduras and other countries. These cigar companies are making cigars for a market that has long forgotten what Cuban cigars taste like. In addition, the quality of the cigars from Cuba have diminished as Communism creates a system where there’s no incentive for anyone to excel. Many former Cuban cigar smokers have since switched to non-Cubans.
With the renewed relations between the U.S. and Cuba, will Cuban cigars be available in the United States soon? That’s a question that only deep insiders in Washington, D.C. can answer. One thing is for sure. When it does happen it will create the biggest cigar boom the world has ever seen. Another thing that’s for sure is that many avid smokers who have never smoked Cubans will be in for a big disappointment as some of the Nicaragua, Honduran and Dominican cigars are now considered better than the Cubans. In time, as Communism and what it has created dwindles away, the quality of Cuban cigars will once again be what is imagined by the aficionados.by