The Bay of Cigs and the Cuban Cigar Crisis

There are 3 things affecting my cigar smoking freedoms:

  • The FDA and proposed regulations on premium cigars
  • My favorite downtown bar banning cigars
  • The Cuban Embargo
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There are cigars in those!

And while the first two of these not happening will definitely make my life easier, the last one leaves me with mixed feelings. Every time I log on to my computer or open a cigar magazine, Cuba is trending. There are some very interesting possibilities and/or opportunities that an influx of Cuban cigars into the US market would present. So while many are excited about the restrictions being lifted, what aren’t we considering? What are we missing? It surely can’t be as easy and non-impactful as buy this, smoke that, done. Are there possible implications to the existing US-based cigar manufactures and their production, profits, etc? Will the allure and mystic of the Cuban cigar be lost? Because I’m a fence straddler on the issue, I had to jot down some pros and cons of Cuban cigars being launched on to US soil.

Go Hard or Go Home!
Cigar companies seem to be popping up every day…some with great products, others with some not as great. But the US cigar industry has reaped the benefits and is stronger than ever right now, partially because Cuban cigars have been outlawed for so long. No matter how the quality, tastes, or environment from which Cubans hail have changed, they are still a standard by which others are judged…warranted or not. Even as we read our favorite industry publications, we are still told that the highest rated cigars in the world are Cuban brands. So there is competition to make the best blends, the coolest vitolas, the most eye-catching bands, but right now that competition is limited to American and Central American based companies. Cuba is on the outside looking in eagerly awaiting the chance to reclaim the crown it once owned pre-embargo as the best cigars in the US.

So will their being legal cause the current big boys in the industry to step up their game, or are they confident enough in their product that they believe they can stand up against the likes of Habanos, S.A., Cuba’s cigar monopoly. Does it help or hurt the US consumer? Because once they hit the market, will they corner it and cause many of our smaller and/or boutique cigar companies to shut their doors, eliminating many of our options?

I Want What I Can’t Have
We are conditioned to believe that if something is hard to get, it must be the best. It happens domestically all of the time, especially after the annual IPCPR trade show where we’re hit with all of these “Limited Edition, only 10 boxes ever made” promotions. For fear that we’ll never see them again, we scoop up as many as possible and pay ridiculous prices…saving them and anticipating the day that we cut, light and enjoy the sought-after, never to be enjoyed again stogie. What’s funny is that while many of those cigars are pretty good, I believe it’s the limited availability, more so than the cigar itself, that causes people to swear by them and proclaim they’re the best thing ever made and life changing.

IMG_2429But when those hard-to-gets become a regular production or easily accessible, they’re typically not followed with the same fanfare. Access and having it more often causes us to file it away in our minds with the rest of the stuff we enjoy…and while it may still be good, it’s no longer “special”. It’s not longer that one thing I’m saving for a special occasion. It becomes regular fruit, not so much forbidden. Cuban cigars, if we’re able to pick ’em up casually, have the possibility of becoming regular ol’ fruit.

I’m always asked if Cubans cigars are better than what we have domestically. I always tell them that it’s subjective and a matter of taste. I then explain that if a guy living in Cuba makes a cigar in his garage or bathroom, it’s technically a Cuban cigar, so the term is relative and can’t just be answered with a “Yes” or “No”. But the conversation always circles back to the “Forbidden fruit” discussion…and how that once people get that bite, they may actually be less fascinated. I mean, if you could drink Pappy Van Winkle every day, would you? And would it be as special…well…maybe that’s a bad example. But you get the point! 

It’s all a “wait and see”, sit in limbo thing now, but these are things that our favorite manufacturers are thinking about and planning for. If they are not thinking ahead, go ahead and stock up on their cigars now…just sayin’, cuz they may not be around long after the embargo is lifted. Having the final say, we as consumers definitely impact how the whole thing will play out. At the end of the day I just want great tasting, high quality cigars and the option to buy or not to buy…wherever those great cigars may come from.

Justin Harris

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