Some 4 million genuine Cuban cigars, and a few million fakes, are consumed in the United States each year despite the trade embargo that prohibits U.S. citizens from purchasing Cuban cigars inside or outside the country, said Garcia. A Cohiba can fetch up to $100 on Wall Street.
Casas de Habanos, Cuba's franchised flag-ship retail outlets, dot the U.S.-Canadian and U.S.-Mexican borders, and can be found throughout the Caribbean. As much as 50 percent of business comes from Americans, the operators say. Countless stores in such U.S. tourist-frequented places as Cancun, Tijuana, Montreal and Nassau boast signs advertising Cuban cigars.
"I know for a fact Americans smoke Cuban cigars and very much enjoy them," said Sarah Iles, who runs a cigar store just outside of Toronto.
She added, "I know because they come into my store all the time and tell me."