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How many cigars?

PostPosted: Wed May 31, 2006 10:55 am
by KarenS
From the Associated Press: "HAVANA (AP) - Cuban customs officials seized nearly 25,000 boxes of contraband cigars last year in efforts to decrease smuggling of the world-famous stogies, the island's domestic news agency AIN reported Tuesday.

Travelers to Cuba can leave the island with 23 cigars without receipts, but for any amount above that, they must have proof of purchase from cigar stores approved by Habanos S.A., Cuba's cigar marketing firm.

Cigars are one of the island's most important exports, worth about $340 million annually. But the prestige of Cuban cigars and a rise in tourism in recent years have combined to increase the black market for the product, prompting customs agents to tighten their controls.

Eighty percent of the cigar contraband is discovered at Havana's Jose Marti International airport, often found on people traveling to Panama or Mexico, customs official Col. Pedro Pupo told AIN. Officials seize the rest at airports in Santiago de Cuba, Varadero and Holguin, he said.

Customs also seized 740 pounds of false cigar seals and stamps last year, AIN reported. The labels are used by those who pass off low-quality cigars as the real thing.

The news agency did not specify how many cigars were in the 24,690 boxes seized last year."