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  • Writer's pictureBen Balliro

So What Would Happen if the U.S./Cuba Embargo was Lifted?

Updated: May 8, 2020

This concern of US/Cuban relations has been on the minds of the U.S. cigar smoking community for generations. It has been debated and argued since the embargo went into effect in March of 1960. First let’s talk about why the embargo happened in the first place.

Long story short in 1960 President Eisenhower was pushing a political campaign to overthrow the communist Fidel Castro regime. He started off by passing the Foreign Assistance Act in 1961 which partially prohibited foreign aid to Cuba while Castro was still in office. The idea was to basically starve cuba from foreign aid until Castro surrendered. Then in 1962, President Kennedy completed the sweep with a full on trade embargo with the Cuban government. Including their most famous cash crops of rum and cigars, but not before Kennedy sent his Press Secretary Pierre Salinger and a couple CIA agents to go to Cuba and buy all the cigars, specifically Kennedy’s favorite cigar the HUpmann Petite Upmann, they could find the night before the embargo signing was complete.

Now, for the most part Cuba is still under a pseudo-communist regime, but they still have to make money to support the islanders. Up until the early 60’s the U.S. market was the biggest customer for purchasing cigars, rum, and tobacco leaf. When the embargo took place, the Cuban people had to sell their supply to someone, so Europe has been Cuba’s biggest market for Cuban cigars for the past 50 years or so. The big question and debate still stands though, what do you think would happen if the embargo was lifted in the U.S.?

Here is a list of a few theories I believe would take place.

1. Cuban cigars for a little while could suffer quality control. The European market is already a massive supplier for Cuban cigars, and therefore the U.S. might not get the first quality batch of premium Cuban cigars. As it was pre-embargo with the U.S./Cuban international relations, now it’s the E.U./Cuban trade relations. If the Embargo is lifted production would be temporarily turbocharged to meet this new “demand” for the U.S. market. I believe the demand for Cuban cigars in the U.S. would skyrocket, causing the production and supply to increase, which would temporarily cause a shift in the quality control and increased production. Eventually it would level out.

2. It might lose some of its luster and appeal to the U.S. market. Since the embargo the U.S. market has been a primary contributor to the increase in production and quality of cigars produced in non-embargoed countries such as Ecuador, Dom. Rep., Nicaragua, Honduras, Brazil, Indonesia, so forth and so on. The entire appeal of smoking a true “Cuban” cigar in the U.S. stems from it’s virtue of being “illegal”. Almost anything is more appealing when it’s illegal or unreachable, it’s human nature to want what we can’t have. Once you can get Cuban cigars freely and openly, it loses it’s appeal because it simply becomes another product on the shelf. Of course today you can find channels online to purchase Cuban cigars, or you can simply fly to Cuba and return back up to 100 dollars worth of rum and cigars. So getting Cuban cigars is even today not impossible, but you simply cannot go into a local U.S. tobacconist and find authentic Cuban imports on the shelf next to your Nicaraguan or Honduran smokes.

3. The quality of cigars imported from other countries are so good, Cuban cigars might simply get overlooked. I think in the beginning if Cuban Cigars become importable again, most cigar smokers will knee jerk react to the tune of “well alright let’s see what all the hype is about”. And like I said, the quality of cigars coming from some of the other major players such as D.R. and Nicaragua is so substantially delicious and less expensive than most Cuban cigars, the Cuban cigars might not have as much attention, or even get looked over completely.

4. The sizes of the cigars. Yes, even the sizes of the Cuban cigars might not be as appealing in the U.S. market. It wasn’t until the mid eighties in the European market that the Robusto (5x50) size was even remotely popular among people. The majority of U.S. Cigar smokers today enjoy thicker and beefier ring gauge cigars. Cuban cigars in general, up until the last decade or so have more slender vitolas with smaller ring gauges. My guess is because the more tobacco in the cigar, the more “value for money” we think we are getting. In Europe machine made cigars such as Villiger Exports, and more petite vitolas such as the Mareva size or more familiarly a Petite Corona, 5 1/18 by 42 are much more widely popular. It’s a fun size and roughly 35-45 minutes of smoking pleasure. As well the majority of cigars in the Cuban portfolio are about 52 RG or smaller with a few exceptions. Compare that to the current market demand for cigars in the 60,70, or even 80+ ring gauge such as the EP Carrillo Inch series, the CAO 660 Carb (6x60 ring gauge) or BAWSE by RaFael Nodal which is a 70 RG cigar, and all of a sudden Cuban cigar start looking “petite“ in comparison. So if the Cuban cigar market does open up the US, I believe the Cuban cigars will have to update their portfolio to larger ring gauges to meet U.S. demands, or simply supply their current stock to the EU until when, or if, the US market shifts back to smaller ring gauge cigars.

Anyway my opinion is just that, an opinion. If you have an alternative theory or or predictions regarding this topic, please feel free to reach out to me or on this website Thanks for reading.

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