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Cigar Insider—Cuba's New Box Code

David Savona
From the Print Edition:
Kevin Costner, Nov/Dec 00

(continued from page 1)

The code was first published in Cigar Insider in February 1996, infuriating officials at Habanos. They threatened to change the code, and three years later, in early 1999, they introduced CODIG UNETA. It followed the same principle as the old code. The undersides of cigar boxes were printed with the month and date as well as a new factory code. For instance, José Martí became ECA, and El Laguito became EUN.

This code lasted until June 1999, when the Cubans began using a monthly code without factory designations. (Occasionally old factory codes also appeared on boxes.) Called the OO Code by some, it had no apparent system or order, and Habanos officials threatened to change the factory code on a monthly basis.

At the time, Cuban officials had become tired of consumers buying cigars by the code, meaning many boxes of cigars from unknown provincial factories were being bypassed for those made in reputable Havana factories. Nonetheless, the newest code was initiated after lobbying by a number of Cuban cigar agents from around the world.

"It is important for consumers and retailers alike to know how old their cigars are," said one Cuban cigar agent in Europe. "Factories are another thing."

Even some Cubans are not sure that including factory codes on boxes of cigars is a good idea. "Now that you know our code," said one anonymous Cuban official who confirmed one of the codes, "we may have to change it again."

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