Cuban stogie sales defy Great Recession

Sales of Cuba’s famed cigars are hot, despite continued recession fears in Europe, and a U.S. embargo that bars American aficionados from legally lighting up.

Cuba’s national cigar maker Habanos SA, a joint venture between the Communist-run government and the British-owned, Madrid-based tobacco giant Altadis, announced Monday that sales totaled $401 million in 2011, a 9 percent rise over the previous year.

Ana Lopez, the head of marketing at the company, said the jump was in line with that experienced by other global luxury products. Sales fell in 2008 and 2009, and were nearly flat the following year amid lingering global economic weakness.

Lopez estimated that the 50-year-old U.S. trade embargo cost Cuba’s tobacco industry $79 million in sales in 2011. The company has also been hurt by the economic crisis in Spain, its No. 1 market.

Associated Press