Consumer Alert -- DO NOT BUY CIGARS IN NASSAU, THE BAHAMAS

My friend Yves is a cigar aficionado. We were idly chatting and I asked him about cigars and where he bought them in Nassau. He told me that most of the cigars in Nassau were fakes. It was shocking. Then he provided me with a link. You can find it yourself. Open a Google browser and type in "Fake Cuban Cigars in Nassau". You will get a whole bunch of references.

Cigar Aficionado Magazine has an article where they state that 95% of the Cuban cigars sold in Nassau are fakes. They are sold to unsuspecting cruise ship tourists who get off the ship and want to enjoy the forbidden fruit of a Cuban cigar. Due to the embargo, Americans are not allowed to possess Cuban tobacco products. They get off the ship, and immediately they are accosted by street hustlers, taxi cab drivers and others who offer to sell them Cuban cigars. The sellers have authentic looking cigar boxes, and the cigars have impressive bands. However, true cigar cognoscenti know that the details and size of the bands are wrong. Most of the cigar frauds are cheapos rolled in the Dominican Republic. Apparently one way to tell is if the wrapper has large veins (which signifies a cheap wrapper).

The illicit business is alive and well. I have been accosted on Paradise Island by people offering to sell me Cuban cigars, weed, crank, snow or sex. This is in addition to the fake Rolexes, Louis Vuitton bags, and fake luxury goods. There is also a thriving trade in pirated CDs and DVDs. It is the shame of the Bahamas, because the country is a signatory to the Berne Copyright conventions, and yet the fakes are sold right in front of the police directing traffic.

So if you like cigars, and are visiting Nassau and you want to try the real thing, where do you go? The only place that you can be assured of not getting ripped off is the Havana Humidor downtown and at Atlantis, and Graycliff -- a hotel, cigar factory and restaurant in Nassau. Otherwise your money will go up in smoke.

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