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Cuban Cigars - Are Cuban Cigars Legal?

Fines and Penalties For Violating Cuban Trade Embargo

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Hands holding a Cuban cigar Tina Buckman/Photolibrary/Getty Images
Cuban cigars are illegal in the United States, except for pre-embargo cigars which are very rare and extremely expensive. If U.S. citizens attempt to buy, own or bring any Cuban cigars into the U.S., they may be subject to fines and other penalties, depending on the particular circumstances.

Cuban Cigars Are Illegal at Home and Abroad

Technically, although an American citizen cannot even purchase or smoke a Cuban cigar while traveling abroad, there may not be any practical way to enforce the restriction. That being said, a cigar smoker who ever wanted to try a Cuban cigar may want to take the chance while traveling in other countries. Canada and Mexico are not very far from many American cities, and those who are planning a Caribbean cruise will find Cuban cigars for sale on many of the islands. There is, however, a problem with counterfeit Cuban cigars being sold to American tourists. To improve the chances of getting the real thing, make your purchase from a reputable cigar store, and not one of the many street vendors that you'll see near the port. Do not buy any more cigars that you intend to smoke while abroad.

Know the Risks

Cuban Assets Control Regulations, 31 C.F.R. Part 515, are administered and enforced by the Office of Foreign Assets Control. According to their website: "Criminal penalties for violating the Regulations range up to 10 years in prison, $1,000,000 in corporate fines, and $250,000 in individual fines. Civil penalties up to $65,000 per violation may also be imposed."

The Forbidden Fruit

In general, Cuban cigars are the best in the world. However, a particular Dominican, Honduran or Nicaraguan cigar can taste better than a particular Cuban cigar. Being Cuban does not automatically make a cigar great, but it does make it the forbidden fruit, and therefore, desirable to some connoisseurs. There are so many great cigars in this world, more than one person can ever sample, that it may not make sense to violate our country's laws just to smoke a cigar from Cuba.

Top Legal Cigars - Better & Just as Expensive

Expect to pay as much for top Dominican and Nicaraguan cigars as for many mediocre Cubans. The best Dominican cigar available (although very expensive and extremely rare) is arguably the Fuente Fuente Opus X (Compare Prices). The Padron 1926 (Compare Prices) could be the best cigar from Nicaragua. Depending on your individual taste, these cigars will top just about any Cuban.
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