Tampa cigar manufacturers welcome Cuban competition

- The American cigar industry is looking forward to the day Cuban cigars will be sold openly in the United States.

The restoration of diplomatic ties between Cuba and the U.S. allows Americans to travel to the island nation and bring back $100 worth of cigars. The loosening of restrictions has some wondering what could happen if the 1962 Trade Embargo were lifted, allowing Cuban cigars to flow in the U.S.

Amee Cooks of J.C. Newman Cigar Company in Tampa believes importing Cuban cigars will benefit everyone in the industry.

“Currently we’re in 83 countries,” she said of J.C. Newman’s cigars. “We already compete with the Cuban cigars, so any kind of embargo that’s opened up here is just going to create more competition for us, and we welcome it."

Since 1962, the U.S. cigar industry has skyrocketed, making it the largest cigar market in the world. Americans now smoke about 40 percent of the world's cigars. Between 2000 and 2012, cigar sales in the U.S. more than doubled from 6 billion to more than 13 billion cigars a year.

“We make over 60,000 cigars here in the Tampa factory. We’ve got factories in Nicaragua and also in the Dominican Republic so, it’s difficult for us to keep our product on the shelves,” said Cooks, before adding that what they’re currently selling may very well top the typical Cuban cigar.

“The competition is already there all over the world. It’s just something maybe new to some Americans,” said Cooks. “So they’ll try it, and maybe boost cigar sales in general, and that’s not a bad thing!”

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