According to J.C. Newman Cigar Co., they are in possession of the last remaining bale of pre-embargo Cuban tobacco in the United States. They are the oldest and the last operating cigar factory in the “Cigar City” of Tampa, Florida. Today, they have filed a petition with the U.S. Department of State requesting authorization to import Cuban tobacco grown by “independent Cuban entrepreneurs” into the United States. The State Department currently allows American companies to legally import coffee and a few other products from Cuba. If granted, J.C. Newman would be able to import the first Cuban tobacco into the United States in 60 years.
My family has a long history with Cuban tobacco. From 1895 until President Kennedy imposed the Cuban Embargo in 1962, my grandfather and great-grandfather imported millions of pounds of tobacco from Cuba through Tampa. Our last shipment of Cuban tobacco was the subject of a legal dispute decided by the Supreme Court.
Drew Newman, great-grandson of company founder J.C. Newman.
J.C. Newman held back their final bale of Cuban tobacco, which is now the last bale of pre-embargo Cuban tobacco in the United States. This sixty-year-old tobacco continues to age in the basement of J.C. Newman’s historic El Reloj cigar factory in Ybor City. It has not been announced what they intend to use that tobacco for.
Under the so-called Sec. 515.582 program, the State Department allows “commercial imports of certain specified goods and services produced by independent Cuban entrepreneurs” in order to “help promote independence from Cuban authorities.” To help support Cuban independence, J.C. Newman is requesting that the State Department include raw tobacco grown by independent farmers in this program.
“Prior to the Embargo, far more cigars were rolled with Cuban tobacco in Tampa than in Cuba because Tampa was home to the world’s best cigar factories,” added Newman. “Authorizing the importation of raw tobacco grown in Cuba would allow us to support independent Cuban entrepreneurs and to prove, once again, that we can roll better cigars with Cuban tobacco than Cuba can.”