For nearly every luxury product, there is a counterfeit version available, from fake designer garments to perfume that will burn the skin from your wrist. If there is a market out there for certain expensive products, someone somewhere will make a cheaper, shoddier version. Fake Cuban cigars have left many a tourist gagging on the cheap stogies they have purchased.
Tourists in places such as the Caribbean are often duped into buying counterfeit Cuban cigars. What was once a small market has now grown into a huge criminal money spinner. There are a few methods that can help you spot a fake Cuban cigar.
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The leaves that Cuban cigars are rolled in are a big giveaway. Fake Cuban cigars are made from unblended leaves that break and fall apart easily. Most of the leaves that make up fake Cuban cigars are broken leaves that are stolen from the cigar factory floor. Look at how the cigars are rolled. If they look as if they were rolled by a three fingered monkey, do not touch them.
Another giveaway is the size of the cigars. A box of fake Cuban cigars may include cigars of varying lengths. Ask if you can try one before buying them. Slice off the end of the cigar and see if it holds together. If it falls apart, then it is a definite fake. If the tobacco falls out of the cigar, then it is a fake Cuban cigar made up of factory floor tobacco shavings.
A box of real Cuban cigars will have some hallmarks that you can check. There should be three marks burnt into the bottom of each box. One will read Hababo S.A. This is the mark of the official Cuban cigar export agency. Another mark will read hecho en Cuba, which means "Made in Cuba". The third mark will read totalmente a mano, which is translated as "totally by hand".
Another sign that you are about to buy real Cuban cigars is the seal that wraps around the box. This should be a green-colored, official government seal. There should also be a yellow Habanos chevron situated in the top right-hand corner. This chevron has been used on Cuban cigar boxes since 1994.
Of course, counterfeiters have also wised up on these markings and use increasingly sophisticated methods to dupe the unsuspecting buyer. To combat the counterfeiters, some importers are now using their own security methods. In the United Kingdom, stamps such as the English Market Selection (EMS) are now in use.