100,000 Cuban cigars seized in Chicago alone during a short two week period running up the busy Christmas holiday shopping season. What a disaster for many aficionados hoping to have something special for Christmas, what a shame for all those cigars that will be incinerated unsmoked.
Seems that the Press isn’t letting this issue die away too quickly, in a follow up report by AFP:
The surge has been most dramatic in Chicago, a hub of the country’s air-cargo network. Typically, customs at O’Hare Airport confiscates some 2,000 Cuban cigars over two weeks. But more than 100,000 have been seized the last two weeks, according to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency.
“These new rules will make this trade more difficult,” said Brian Bell, a Chicago spokesman for the agency.
The confiscations in Chicago and plans to destroy the seized cigars have created a buzz in the U.S. cigar community, with some enthusiasts expressing outrage. Chat-rooms on Cigar Aficionado magazine’s website are flooded with talk about the seizures, with many commentators bemoaning how difficult it might become to acquire Cubans.
In my opinion, the article tends to suggest that the large confiscation is probably a one-off occurrence. US cigar smokers have for many years been ordering Cuban cigars with impunity, despite knowledge that “trading with the enemy” is illegal. So it’s natural that during the holiday season, purchases picked up, and due to the ban on parcels in passenger airlines to US, it forced suppliers in Europe to stockpile all their packages, and send them all out together in a single or a few freight planes, regular cargo planes.
The large number of packages containing cigars all together at the same time set off a definite red-flag for officials, and made the discovery and confiscations an easy task. When before, packages trickled in over the thousands of passenger flights into the US over a day, now they all came in on the same couple of planes — detection was made 1000x easier.
For the future, it just means that buyers in the US need to be more careful if they insist on buying Cuban cigars. Perhaps avoid ordering during the holiday seasons? Perhaps avoid ordering more than 1-2 boxes at a time? Perhaps, some suppliers will setup proxy delivery centers, meaning that the cigars will be routed into the US via Asia instead of directly from Europe. Whatever the case, if there is a will, there is a way — the report indicated 15,000,000 Cuban cigars are shipped to US annually, that’s a significant chunk of business, and something that suppliers will need to find a way to get into, whatever the cost.