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U.S. Customs and Cuban Cigars

Our European editor discovers that America's borders are safe and secure against Cuban tobacco products.
From the Print Edition:
Tiger Woods, May/June 2008

(continued from page 1)

My Customs officer didn't really know what to think when he read that I had been to Cuba. He asked me for press credentials and a license from the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control. I politely told him I did not need to carry a license to travel to Cuba. "It falls under the general license," I said to him in as friendly a way as possible.

He said that he had to speak to his supervisor, and left me standing in the empty search area. I felt as if I were back in third grade in Los Angeles when I was often told to stand in the corner for punishment. But this was more serious.

"How many cigars do you have?" he said, when he returned after three or four minutes in the adjacent office.

I told him that I had 15 or so. "Let me see them, please," he said. "Don't you know that we have an embargo with Cuba?"

I tried to explain that I knew all about the embargo and that I had been going to Cuba for 17 years. I knew that I wasn't supposed to bring the cigars in, but I wasn't planning on leaving them in the States.

"When are you going back to Europe?" he asked.

"In about a week," I said.

"How am I supposed to believe that you wouldn't smoke them while you are in the United States?" he said.

I guess he had a point. It would be very tempting to smoke them in Los Angeles with a few friends. He went back to speak to his supervisor.

His supervisor finally came out and said he was really sorry that they had to confiscate and destroy the cigars. "If you were in transit today, I would let you go," he said. "But you are staying in the States for a while. We are going to have to follow the law."

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