Counterfeiting has always been a problem in the cigar industry. Manufacturers put in countless hours blending, aging, and marketing their cigars to be purchased by enthusiasts all over the world. With that in mind it is no wonder why cigar companies large and small go to extreme lengths to not only find and reprimand guilty parties, but also to prevent their products from becoming targeted. The cigar industry has been picking up speed, creating unique blends with heavy advertising dollars behind them - which has put even more emphasis on policing counterfeits. Unfortunately, given the nature of the product, counterfeiting seems to be a problem that is here to stay.
Numerous brands have been knocked-off and sold as originals, not just Cuban brands repackaged with increasingly sophisticated bands and boxes that are then sold in tourist areas, but many popular non-Cuban brands as well. These include Cohiba
, Arturo Fuente
and Romeo y Julieta
. In fact, in recent news, Altadis USA (makers of Montecristo and Romeo y Julieta) have recently gone on the offensive and tracked down those selling counterfeits. A recent and publicized case involved the arrests of individuals Allen Boyd and James David Joiner. Boyd was a manager for a distributor in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Joiner was owner of a smoke shop also located in Fort Lauderdale. Both individuals were selling counterfeit Montecristo, Romeo y Julieta, and H. Upmann cigars at their shops, among others. The two reportedly disassembled generic cigars and reassembled them into counterfeit boxes and bands in the back of their shops on a consistent basis, prepping them for sale to unsuspecting consumers. Representatives of the company that owned these brands visited with undercover investigators who made purchases of the counterfeit product to confirm their illegitimacy. Also interesting, investigators did not have to pay taxes on the cigars since the shop representatives waived the fee due to a cash payment. Each box was priced around $250 and put through a thorough examination – every box purchased was bogus. Both individuals were arrested and authorities confiscated all counterfeit inventory and empty packaging.
Given the popularity and prices for certain cigars, including Cuban brands, and the naivete of some consumers (especially common in tourist destinations), it’s only natural that we can expect to see such behavior increase among the less scrupulous. What is gratifying to see is a more aggressive and sophisticated level of law enforcement, which is now viewing this as a serious piracy issue, one with millions of dollars at stake and jobs that depend on protecting the intellectual property of the products they make. After all, cigar makers and thousands of employees engaged by legitimate cigar factories and tobacco farming operations around the world work hard to maintain strict standards of quality, construction, and consistency - and other traits you’ve come to know and expect from a given brand. A cigar’s name and designs represent more than just rolled up tobacco. It encapsulates a level of flavor, quality and construction you’ve grown to trust and identify in a brand....a direct result of the passion, loyalty, and commitment of those industry workers in this labor-intensive and time-honored hobby.