Why Are Cuban Cigars Illegal?

by LegalFix
Posted: October 5, 2022
import-export regulations

Even if you don’t smoke, you’ve probably heard somewhere that Cuban cigars are prized for their exceptional quality and flavor. What you may not know is that it’s illegal to buy and sell Cuban cigars in the United States. While cigars from other countries like Honduras, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic are readily available, American citizens can only get their hands on a Cuban cigar legally by buying it in a country with no trade embargo with Cuba (such as Canada). The only other way for Americans to legally get Cuban cigars is to travel to Cuba—which is also illegal in many cases.

Cuban Import and Trade Laws 

The ban on Cuban goods in the United States is not exclusive to cigars. The import of Cuban merchandise for commercial purposes is heavily restricted, with very limited exceptions. U.S. citizens are also forbidden by the US Department of State from traveling to Cuba as tourists, with travel to Cuba limited only to licensed travelers for certain approved activities. 

Interestingly enough, the ban on trade does not go both ways. Although economic sanctions are still in place, the U.S. is actually the largest provider of food and agricultural products to Cuba, as well as a major supplier of humanitarian goods. 

US/Cuban Trade History

Trade restrictions between the U.S. and Cuba date back to the early 1960s, due primarily to tensions between the U.S. and Cuba’s communist government. Before the Cuban Civil War of 1959, relations between the two countries were close. 

 However, beginning in 1960, the U.S. government began setting restrictions against the Cuban government after Cuba nationalized property belonging to American companies. Tensions and bans escalated, culminating in the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Relations remained strained throughout the Cold War. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, these tensions eased slightly, but it wasn’t until 2000 that U.S. and Cuban leaders would meet in person and begin tentatively exploring new opportunities for diplomacy and trade.

Recent Changes in US/Cuba Relations

Things have become less restrictive over the last decade. Cuba and the United States officially reestablished diplomatic relations in 2015, reopening embassies in their respective capitals. While cigar lovers hoped that this could mean an end to the ban on Cuban imports, the trade embargo with Cuba remains in place today, with most transactions between the United States and Cuba still prohibited. 

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