Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Cuban cigars get shorter to counter anti-smoking laws

Cuban cigars get shorter to counter anti-smoking laws
February 26, 2014, 3:23 am

Havana (AFP) - Shorter cigars that can be savored more quickly are
Cuba's strategic response to global anti-tobacco campaigns.

"With restrictions around the world on where one can smoke, the logical
answer is to provide the enjoyment of intense flavor in less time," Luis
Sanchez-Harguindey, the co-president of Habanos SA, told AFP.

"Today's trend is to provide cigars to consumers that have a larger
caliber but are shorter precisely so they can be smoked more quickly,"
the Spaniard said in an interview on the sidelines of Havana's annual
cigar festival.

Habanos SA is a joint venture between Cuban state company Cubatabaco and
the Franco-Spanish Altadis that was bought in 2008 by the British
Imperial Tobacco Group.

One of the stars of the festival is one such new smoke -- the Partagas
D6 -- that measures just 9 centimeters (3.5 inches) in length. In
contrast, the longest Havanas can traditionally be more than twice that

Puffing on the new product takes about 15 minutes, according to Habanos SA.

Younger consumers and women increasingly are being targeted with milder,
more refined flavors.

"There are other brands, like Hoyo de Monterrey, that allow for the
introduction of more delicate flavors, more meant for young people,"
said Sanchez-Harguindey, a non-smoker who took to cigars when he arrived
in Cuba in 1998 while working for a foreign bank.

"Traditionally, the cigar smoker is a man who is middle aged or older,
especially because of the price of cigars," he added. "The most
expensive products, like the Cohiba, aren't in everyone's reach."

A brand's image is also very important, according to Sanchez-Harguindey.

"We're seeing in our marketing studies that the average age of a Havana
smoker is falling and that the number of women smokers is on the rise"
even though they still only represent five percent of consumers, he added.

Sanchez-Harguindey expressed confidence Cuban cigars will remain a
"globally unique product" thanks to the Caribbean country's climate,
earth and centuries-old tobacco culture.

Tobacco is one of Cuba's top exports, behind nickel and biotech products.

On Monday, Habanos SA announced that Cuban cigar sales were up eight
percent in 2013, reaching $447 million.

While Europe remained the top taker of the famous smokes, the greatest
gains were seen in China.

Country-specific, the main markets for Havanas are Spain, France, China,
Germany, Switzerland, Cuba, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates, it said.

But Habanos SA faces a significant hurdle: It is unable to access the
biggest global cigar market, the United States, due to an economic
embargo imposed by Washington more than a half-century ago on communist

As in years past, the 16th Havana Festival, featuring tours of tobacco
plantations and cigar factories, culminates Friday with a gala dinner.

Source: Cuban cigars get shorter to counter anti-smoking laws - The West
Australian -

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