The Obama Administration is easing restrictions on some of Cuba’s most famous exports. Starting Monday, travelers to Cuba can bring home larger amounts of rum and cigars for personal use. It will still not be possible to order online and have rum or cigars shipped internationally.
The actions follow steps taken since the December 2014 announcement by President Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro that the two nations would normalize relations after more than 50 years.
But its only a matter of time before authentic Cuban cigars are on the shelves for sale on the Central Coast.
Its a busy Friday night at the Amsterdam Smoke Shop in Santa Maria.
A steady stream of customers looking for their favorite smoke or smoking device
“We do sell cigars, we have Cohibas”, says Amsterdam Smoke Shop store manager Qais Kurdi , “we have a bunch of different name brands, whatever is popular we try to get them for our customers.”
Kurdi says the potential for legal, Cuban cigars will be good for his business.
“If they do legalize this new Cuban cigar thing, we’ll have to bring them in”, Kurdi says.
The current restrictions limit the number of cigars visitors to Cuba can bring back with them to the United States at 100 cigars per person as long as they are for personal use.
Qais Kurdi believes its only a matter of time before you see “Made in Cuba” cigars on local store shelves.
“If we have distributors coming in here offering me Cuban cigars, authentic like you say, I will sell them”, Kurdi says, “over time the word will get around that we do carry them, so we will sell them.”
Some market analysts say the Cuban cigar market could be worth up to $200 million a year in the United States alone.