The Legality of Cuban Cigars: Why Are They Illegal in US? (2024)

Justin R.
Justin R.

Cigar Enthusiast, Chief Editor

why are cuban cigars illegal
Table of Contents

Cuban cigars (sometimes just called “Cubans”) are known worldwide as being some of the best.

However, for years, US cigar aficionados had a tough time getting their hands on Cuban cigars.

So, why are Cuban stogies illegal?

After President John F. Kennedy ordered for the United States to cut all its economic ties with Cuba in February, 1962, Cuban cigars and numerous other goods were made illegal in the United States.

The purpose of the ban was to try and weaken Fidel Castro’s communist regime, as many Americans thought it was a threat to their way of life.

Here at Cigar Amigo, we’ve spent the time researching all the details of the initial banning of Cuban cigars, and information on the current status of stogies from Cuba.

By the end of the post, you’ll know everything there is to know about the legality of Cuban cigars.

Why Are Cuban Cigars Illegal in the US?

Cuban cigars are illegal in the United States due to a trade embargo filed in February of 1962 by President John F. Kennedy. The trade embargo put a stop to the trading of all imports from Cuba, including cigars.

This would be one of the events that led to the Cuban missile crisis, and Cold War conflict that lasted around 13 days.

Not only did the trade embargo affect the Cuban economy, but also cigar lovers across the United States. The ban has been in effect for the last six decades.

Today, even lodging is difficult to find while in Cuba. Since the government owns a large stake in the country’s hotels and lodging properties, several properties are on the Cuba prohibited accommodations list.

Are Cuban Cigars Still Illegal in 2024?

The trade embargo has made obtaining Cuban cigars a legal challenge for US citizens. For over 60 years, it has been outlawed to sell or bring any Cuban tobacco products back into the United States.

However, there have been some slight changes over the last decade regarding the legalities of Cuban cigars. During the Obama administration, legal restrictions were lifted on Cuban goods, including stogies and rum.

President Obama did so to try and build better relations between the United States and the Cuban government. With the embargo gone, both nations could see great economic benefits.

However, the ban was reinstated at the end of 2020 by the Trump administration. 

As a result, the embargo remains and it is  against the law to purchase online or bring Cuban cigars from retailers on American soil.

Only citizens with a license to pass through the strait in South Florida are allowed to legally obtain Cuban stogies. That said, getting a license to visit Cuba can be extremely challenging.

Cuban Cigars Banned

While it’s still outlawed for American citizens to purchase or buy Cuban cigars, they aren’t illegal to consume. Popular brands like Cohiba, Monte Cristo, and Romeo Y Juliet cannot be imported into the United States legally.

How did Cuban Cigars become illegal in the US?

The trade embargo in 1962 is the primary reason why Cuban stogies were outlawed in the United States. However, relations with Cuba worsened even after the strict trade embargo.

The threat of nuclear war only made tensions higher between Havana and Washington.

Fidel Castro’s communist regime was considered one of America’s greatest threats by the State Department. Constant schemes and clever tricks were deployed on both sides to try to destabilize one another.

However, it wasn’t always this way. Relations between Cuba and the United States were quite good up until the end of the 1950s.

Cuban President Fulgencio Batista formed a short but tight relationship with Washington in hopes of long-term prosperity.

Fast forward several decades, and an American cigar aficionado has to struggle to obtain some of the best cigars in the world.

The Cuba’s Revolution and Fidel Castro

If you’re wondering why Cuban cigars are illegal in America, a lot of it has to do with Cuba’s revolution.

In short, the Revolution was an event led by Castro to overthrow the military government led by President Batista.

This new political structure would cause a lot of domestic and international turmoil for the island nation, including their impending strict trade embargo.

The embargo remains one of the most well-known aftermaths of the Cold War conflict against Cuba and the Soviet Union.

Cuban Cigars Illegal Penalties

Now that you know it’s illegal to buy and sell Cuban stogies, let’s see what the legal penalties are for doing so.

What happens if you get caught with Cuban cigars?

The legal consequences for dealing, selling, importing, or any transactional activity surrounding Cuban cigars can be relatively harsh. For starters, government officials will confiscate your stogies.

In some cases, you could be subjected to a fine of $50,000.

Although seldom, you could find yourself in the middle of a criminal trial or face jail time.

I Want To Obtain Cuban Cigars, Is There Any Solution?

The only real lawful way to purchase Cuban cigars is to obtain a legal license to travel to Cuba. That said, it’s not as easy as catching a flight from Miami to Havana. You may need to hire a government lawyer to see if you would be eligible.

No person subject America’s jurisdiction can pay for a hotel owned by the government of Cuba or a prohibited official.  Numerous travel providers and individuals aren’t pleased with the new regulations.

You used to be able to purchase Cuban cigars from other nations and bring them back to the United States.

Americans could purchase a Cuban cigar in some other country that had free trade from Cuba such as Canada , Mexico, and the UK.

However, all that changed after tighter sanctions on Cuba September, 2020.

What Makes a Cuban Cigar So Special?

Are Cuban Cigars Still Illegal in 2022

The cigar industry is something Cuba is popular for. The Cuban government wants to protect the nation’s reputation.

The Cuban Cigar craze was in effect way before the Fidel Castro and Cuban Revolution. Even after Fidel Castro’s death, there’s still a huge market for stogies from Cuba.

Brands like Cohiba use premium tobacco so you’ll be delighted every time you smoke one of their stogies. 

Conclusion

No doubt, the Cuban assets control regulations have made it difficult to cigars of Cuban origin. Known for their outstanding taste and exclusivity, it seems no cigar lover can get enough of Cuban tobacco products.

Perhaps someday soon, the United States and Cuba will remove their ban on imports. As a result, Americans can enjoy some cigars of Cuban origin with ease.