Cuban cigars are now going to be legal in the U.S.

Today the U.S. announced it would begin normalizing relations with Cuba, more than 50 years after it imposed an embargo on the island nation. As part of the deal, the U.S. is lifting some trade restrictions, including a ban on Cuban cigars.

But, they can only be brought back to the U.S. by “licensed U.S. travelers.” And there will be a $100 cap. Marcus Daniel, owner of Marcus Daniel tobacconist in Naples, Fla., said that for retail shops like his, the news actually doesn’t mean much, since commercial imports remain barred.

“We still have a trade embargo,” he said. “It would have to be through proper channels.”

The embargo has over the years fueled a black market for cigars from Cuba that Daniel said remains “fairly large” today. At one point, a box of 50 Coronas sold for as much as $850.

But with Wednesday’s announcement, some shops might be tempted to start labeling non-Cuban cigars as such, he said, thereby under cutting the value of real ones.

“A lot of non-Cuban cigars could mysteriously become ‘Cuban,'” he said. Many tobacconists claim Cuban cigars are superior because they enjoy greater quality control — the industry is tightly regulated by the Cuban government.

But for all their mystique, Daniel said, Cuban cigars have probably been overly fetishistic simply because they’ve been unavailable for so long.

He compared the situation to someone saying they would only drink wine from France, despite the fact that dozens of other countries also grow wine grapes. “They’re great cigars, but you’re not going to have an out-of-body experience,” he said.

 

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