Land of the free

by Chris Bertram on October 16, 2004

Via John B at Shot by Both Sides , I see that US citizens or permanent residents who buy Cuban cigars abroad (say in the UK) and consume them there, are liable to criminal penalties of up to $250,000 and up to 10 years in prison and civil penalties of up to $65,000. So my British-based American friends who amble down to the local tobacconists and buy one of Havana’s best to smoke in their own living room will be in jeopardy of arrest on their next trip back home (if suitably denounced). [1]

From the Office of Foreign Assets Control’s Cuban Cigar Update :

The question is often asked whether United States citizens or permanent resident aliens of the United States may legally purchase Cuban origin goods, including tobacco and alcohol products, in a third country for personal use
outside the United States. The answer is no. The Regulations prohibit persons subject to the jurisdiction of the United States from purchasing, transporting, importing, or otherwise dealing in or engaging in any transactions with respect to any merchandise outside the United States if such merchandise (1) is of Cuban origin; or (2) is or has been located in or transported from or through Cuba; or (3) is made or derived in whole or in part of any article which is the growth, produce or manufacture of Cuba. Thus, in the case of cigars, the prohibition extends to cigars manufactured in Cuba and sold in a third country and to cigars manufactured in a third country from tobacco grown in Cuba.

Here’s what to do if you spot an American having an illicit puff:

Suspected embargo violations may be reported telephonically to OFAC’s Enforcement Division at (202)622-2430 or via facsimile at 202 622-1657.

fn1. Since the ban also hits permanent residents, Henry, Harry, Brian and Kieran had better be careful on their trips home!

{ 20 comments }

1

Frank Emesis 10.16.04 at 6:35 pm

This is a ridiculous and totally unenforceable law.

2

Andy 10.16.04 at 7:53 pm

True enough Frank, but what are the policy implications of such a ridiculous law? Could anything be done “up” there?

3

Messenger 10.16.04 at 8:05 pm

Interesting. Surely you all know at least somebody or other deserving to be denounced for this heinous crime? The possibilities for causing harassment to unpleasant acquaintances seem intriguing.

4

Rob 10.16.04 at 8:22 pm

I know that doing things that are legal in other countries (ie drugs) can give you problems when trying to get a Visa for the US. Could smoking a Cuban cigar be another?

5

rebelliousnature 10.16.04 at 8:39 pm

is anyone going to turn in the governator? maybe the publicity would make him challenge this idiotic & unenforceble law…

6

bob mcmanus 10.16.04 at 9:08 pm

Well, Tommy Chong did Fed time for selling bongs. I presume the point of this, among others, is simply another weapon to get you if they want you.

Do we lack lawyers here? If they use this to nail Al Franken or Alec Baldwin or Bill Clinton, and only them, is it reasonable for an appeals court to overturn on selective enforcement?

7

harry 10.16.04 at 9:50 pm

Don’t smoke, never have. I barely drink — I’ve never been drunk. So I figure I’m clean.

When I applied for initial visa (in 1985) I was frank about my one conviction (a miner’s strike-related conviction). The woman at the American consulate where I had to go to get the visa laughed when she saw my waiver and I told her the story. Laughed as in — ‘this is not the kind of thing that could get you excluded — we know what was going on’. So I’ve always felt ok about it. Can’t speak for Keiran, Henry, or Brian.

8

Bernard Yomtov 10.16.04 at 11:34 pm

I notice that this is described as a regulation. Is anyone familiar with the relevant statute?

9

DeAnn 10.17.04 at 12:36 am

What if someone else buys it and gives it to someone as a gift? And then, that someone lets you smoke it?

Am I going to be fined $250,000?

10

jet 10.17.04 at 12:49 am

It’s funny how when centralized economies are forced to compete with capitalism, they start to become more liberal. How progressive would Cuba be if we had dropped the embargo the day Russia stopped sending billion dollar subsidies to Cuba? Doing the wrong thing for the right reasons still doesn’t make it the right thing.

11

neil 10.17.04 at 2:05 am

Bernard, I believe the law is the Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917. The text of the law may be found here (PDF link).

12

ikpmgsn 10.17.04 at 2:28 am

I told them about Gov. Schwarzennager but they said it’s not worth fining a guy who already carries that much money around just to park his Hummer.

13

cigars 10.17.04 at 3:44 am

Well I hate to disagree with you but the Trading with the Enemy Act does not affect smoking cuban cigars in locations where the cigars are legal. That law prohibits trading with Cuba and the importation of articles from Cuba or made in Cuba. According to historians, Kennedy pushed and signed the law but originally wanted to exempt Cuban Cigars. Congress disagreed with him and disallowed the Cuban cigar exemption. He signed it as Congress sent it to him and therefore the importation ban of Cuban cigars. SHOT BY BOTH SIDES has an inappropriate interpretation of the laws impact. And by the way, why would someone want to spend so much on Cuban cigars??? They a

14

cigars 10.17.04 at 3:44 am

Well I hate to disagree with you but the Trading with the Enemy Act does not affect smoking cuban cigars in locations where the cigars are legal. That law prohibits trading with Cuba and the importation of articles from Cuba or made in Cuba. According to historians, Kennedy pushed and signed the law but originally wanted to exempt Cuban Cigars. Congress disagreed with him and disallowed the Cuban cigar exemption. He signed it as Congress sent it to him and therefore the importation ban of Cuban cigars. SHOT BY BOTH SIDES has an inappropriate interpretation of the laws impact. And by the way, why would someone want to spend so much on Cuban cigars??? They are not what they used to be.

15

Dan McEnroe 10.17.04 at 3:48 am

So, we can’t subscribe to the World Court because we’re worried about foreign governments having undue sway over our armed forces, but we’re giving just about everyone in the Caribbean, UK, France, and the rest of Europe the opportunity to narc on our tourists.

Think about it – extorting American tourists spotted smoking a Cuban cigar could become a whole new cottage industry overseas!

16

Abnu 10.17.04 at 4:30 am

You mean Tommy Franks was breaking the law when he smoked Cubans at Gitmo?

17

Bernard Yomtov 10.17.04 at 5:32 am

When did we go to war with Cuba? I must have missed it.

More seriously, is it possible this regulation is just some bureaucrat overreaching?

18

reuben 10.17.04 at 11:20 am

As Melanie Phillips, Carol Gould and I were discussing just the other day, it’s practically impossible for me to leave my London house these days without an America-hating Brit attempting to plant Cuban cigars on me.

19

nick 10.17.04 at 9:58 pm

According to historians, Kennedy pushed and signed the law but originally wanted to exempt Cuban Cigars. Congress disagreed with him and disallowed the Cuban cigar exemption.

Kennedy only signed the executive order (not a bill from Congress) after buying up all the H. Uppmans in the DC area, of course.

20

Ereshkigal 10.18.04 at 1:12 am

Cuba produces and exports numerous goods, cigars being merely one of its notable exports. Consuming other Cuban-produced goods– say, sugar– would violate the law as well.

Want some candy, little girl?

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