FAQ: Can you sell me a Cuban?


Cuban Cigar header

Since the changes in the Cuban cigar sanctions were announced, the most common question I’m asked at the tobacco counter in my bookstore is, “Can you sell me a Cuban?”

Can I? Probably. Like everyone else in the business, I know a guy who knows a guy. I’m sure I could get my hands on some authentic Cuban cigars.

Will I? Not just no, but hell no.

The question comes from a misunderstanding of the new rules, which come from some really sloppy reporting on a lot of news sites and blogs.

On December 17, 2014, President Obama announced that he was making some changes to Cuban sanctions, and those changes took place on January 16. The embargo was not lifted, but there is now a legal way to get Cuban cigars into the United States.

Here’s what has changed, quoting from this U.S. Treasury Department fact sheet (note that it’s a PDF file):

Persons authorized to travel to Cuba may purchase alcohol and tobacco products while in Cuba for personal consumption while there. Authorized travelers may return to the United States with up to $100 worth of alcohol and/or tobacco products acquired in Cuba in accompanied baggage, for personal use only.

Here’s what has not changed:

  • You still may not bring Cuban cigars purchased from any country other than Cuba into the United States. Smoke all the Cubans you want on your trip to Cabo San Lucas, but you can’t bring any home.
  • You may not take cigars out of Cuba by any means other than your personal baggage. You still can’t ship them home from Cuba, you still can’t buy them mail order, and you still can’t buy them online.
  • You can’t sell Cuban cigars in the U.S. That means even if I did fly to Cuba, buy some cigars, and legally bring them home, I couldn’t sell them to you.

If you ponder that $100 limit, it has some ramifications, too.

  • That’s your total limit for tobacco and alcohol. If you want some Cuban rum, that comes out of your cigar allowance.
  • $100 does not buy very many Cuban cigars. Even without the punitive tobacco taxes in states like this one, you aren’t going to be coming home with a box of Monte Cristo churchills.

So the bottom line to all of this is that if you are making an authorized trip to Cuba, feel free to grab a few cigars while you’re there, but I’m sorry. As much as I would like to sell you some, I can’t do that.

About Gary D. Robson

Gary Robson: Author, tea guy, and general manager of the Billings Bookstore Cooperative. I've written books and articles on a zillion different subjects, but everyone knows me for my "Who Pooped in the Park?" books.

Posted on 14 April 2015, in Blog and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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