Cuban cigars may soon lose their image of U.S. contraband

Local cigar vendors are frequent stopping points for U.S. tourists, mostly male, who are seeking the forbidden fruit of Cuban cigars.

The metro area has cigar rooms where smokers can pay up to $60 a cigar.

There also are tobacco shops that display certification that their Cuban cigars are really that and not cheap rip offs made in Puriscal.

The problem is bringing the cigars back to the United States, which is a forbidden practice. Homeland Security promises large fines for anyone caught with Cuban cigars or alcohol, for that matter.

Under the proposal for relaxing trade barriers between Cuba and the United States, it appears that U.S. visitors to the island will be able to bring back home $100 worth of cigars or alcohol. The rules have not changed yet, but new ones are expected to be announced soon.

By extension, all U.S. overseas travelers, including tourists to Costa Rica, will be able to bring home Cuban products.

Most cigar smokers do that already, and an agency that cannot stop the importation of tons of cocaine or thousands of illegal aliens is unlikely to spot a couple of Montecristos stuffed inside some underwear.

Larger shipments of Cuban cigars depend on U.S. congressional action, sources said. That may be a long time in coming, considering the current U.S. political situation.

Although Puriscal west of the Central Valley is the source of Cuban

Four well-known Cuban cigars: H. Upmann, Montecristo, Macanudo, Romeo y Julieta.

Four well-known Cuban cigars: H. Upmann, Montecristo, Macanudo, Romeo y Julieta.

knockoffs, tobacco growers there also boast they have a product as good as the Communist island.

Vegas Santiago S.A., is the the largest cigar manufacturer in Costa Rica, along with the 200 members of the Association of Tabacaleros de Puriscal in Costa Rica, the firm announces on its Web site. Yet, Costa Rican cigars have not been promoted vigorously.

Florida also has some cigar production operated by former Cuban residents. In addition, some Nicaraguans claim that Cuban manufacturers use the wrapper or outer leaf from their country.

So there also is the possibility that Cuban cigars will lose their luster when they are fully legal in the United States.


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