Obama lifts restrictions on Cuban rum, cigars

Obama lifts restrictions on Cuban rum, cigars
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The Obama administration on Friday further lifted restrictions on Cuba, announcing that U.S. travelers can now bring back an unlimited amount of Cuban cigars and rum.

The Treasury Department’s move is just the latest step the administration has taken to normalize relations with Cuba.

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"In all cases, the Cuban-origin goods must be imported for personal use, and normal limits on duty and tax exemptions will apply,” the Treasury said Friday.

Previously, U.S. travelers visiting Cuba could return with no more than $100 worth of cigars and alcohol. 

Restrictions on travel to Cuba still exist. Americans tourists are prohibited from visiting Cuba, though U.S. citizens may travel to the island for educational purposes, journalistic purposes and to visit family, among other reasons.

Though the changes pave the way for Americans to buy more cigars while they are visiting Cuba, those companies will still be prohibited from selling cigars in the U.S.

The move frustrated American cigar manufacturers, who fear the Obama administration is opening the doors to Cuban cigars, even as it hits U.S. tobacco companies with more restrictions.

“The FDA wants to discourage cigar smoking at all costs,” said Eric Newman, president of the J.C. Newman Cigar Company.

“While this new executive order now permits and encourages Americans to bring in an unlimited number of Cuban cigars, the administration won’t even let us American cigar manufacturers send cigars to our soldiers in Afghanistan who are getting shot at by ISIS — due to the new draconian and punishing regulations that FDA is pushing on our cigar industry,” he added. 

Cuba’s cigar industry may not have the infrastructure to keep up with American demand, said Frank Herrera, a Florida-based lawyer who represents cigar companies around the world. 

This could lead to a rise in counterfeit Cuban cigars, he warned.

“Just because it comes from Cuba doesn’t mean it’s genuine,” Herrera said.