Why Are Cuban Cigars Illegal?

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Che Guevara With Cigar

Communist Revolutionary Che Guevara With Cigar (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cuban cigars have a long reputation as the finest cigars money can buy. Cigar aficionados around the world have been enjoying them for many decades. But why are Cuban cigars illegal in the United States?

The answer to this question dates back to February of 1962 during the height of the Cold War, when President John F. Kennedy established a trade embargo against Cuba as a sanction against Castro’s communist regime. At the time, Fidel Castro’s communist revolutionaries had just seized power and were busy seizing private property. Castro’s newly established communist regime was considered a major threat to democracy at the time.

In fact, the Cuban missile crisis occurred the very same years as the trade embargo, when Castro allowed the Soviet Union to build nuclear missile bases on the island, capable of striking into the heart of the United States. For the younger generation who might not be familiar with the incident, the Cuban missile crisis was likely the closest the world has ever come to a full out nuclear war. After the Cuban missile crisis, American intelligence agencies made numerous attempts to assassinate Castro, including one attempt that involved (ironically) poisoning his cigar. In the eyes of Uncle Sam, any sort of trade with Cuba is tantamount to supporting communism – a pretty serious crime during the Cold war.

In essence, Cuban cigars are still illegal because of the established trade embargo against communist Cuba. While communism is no longer the threat it once was and Fidel Castro is no longer in office, the trade embargo remains.

In fact, the United States government dislikes Fidel Castro so much, that Cuban cigars aren’t only illegal for Americans to smoke or import into the United States when they’re purchased in Cuba – they’re illegal for American citizens to purchase and import any anywhere in the world.

What Are The Penalties?

The penalties for involvement in any sort of transactions involving Cuban cigars can include:

  • Confiscation of the cigars
  • Fines of up to $55,000 per violation
  • Criminal prosecution involving higher fines/imprisonment

As long as Cuba remains a totalitarian communist state, the trade embargo will remain, and American cigar aficionados will have to skirt the law in order to enjoy fine cuban cigars.


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