World’s Top Cigar Producer Enjoys Boom Amid Covid Lockdowns

December 29, 2020

By Jim Wyss

Locked-down smokers around the world are proving to be a boon for the Dominican Republic’s cigar and tobacco industry.

Already the world’s largest cigar producer, the Caribbean nation is on track to export a record $1 billion worth of tobacco products this year. That would represent a 6% jump over the $942 million it sold abroad in 2019, according to government figures.

The cigar industry has emerged as a bright spot for the region’s largest economy, which is expected to shrink 5.5% this year, as its critical tourism and services sectors are hammered by coronavirus-related restrictions.

As global cigar aficionados have been unable to frequent bars and restaurants, they’re spending more money and time on their smoking habit, said Hendrik Kelner, the president of the Association of Dominican Cigar Manufacturers.

“Initially, we were very worried, because we saw all these stores and smoke shops closing -- some of them for good,” he said in a telephone call from the Dominican Republic. But sales quickly moved online and have been strong, he said. “Despite everything, we are seeing strong export levels -- the tobacco industry isn’t being hurt.”

If Dominican tobacco exports break the 10-digit mark this year, they will become the nation’s fifth billion-dollar export industry, along with gold, electrical products, textiles and medical devices, according to central bank data.

‘Loyal Friend’

The Dominican Republic is thought to be one of the birthplaces of the cigar; islanders were rolling and smoking tobacco centuries before Columbus set foot on the island. When Cuba nationalized its cigar industry during the 1959 revolution, many of the top growers moved to the neighboring island, propelling the Dominican industry.

Since then, the sector has surged amid consolidation, diversification and foreign investment, said Ebell de Castro, the development director for Free Trade Zones and Industrial Parks under the Ministry of Industry.

The country has long been a top producer of hand-rolled “puros,” but now it’s also a leader in machine-rolled cigars and cigarrillos, he said. In 2018, Swisher -- the maker of Swisher Sweets and premium cigars -- moved part of its production from the U.S. to the Dominican Republic. Earlier this year, Imperial Brands sold its Dominican premium cigar plant to a group of private equity investors as part of a $1.5 billion deal.

The cigar export surge comes as the consumption of all kinds of drugs spikes during the virus lockdown, even if some of them may leave users more susceptible to Covid-19 complications. Yet Kelner isn’t surprised by the resilience of the “puros.”

“A cigar,” he said, “is like a loyal friend who accompanies you when times are tough and you’re lonely.”

Plasencia Alma Fuerte Robustus I Named The 2020 Cigar of the Year by Cigar Journal

December 18, 2020

Plasencia Cigars, a world-leading premium tobacco grower, is excited to share the news that European-based Magazine, Cigar Journal, has named the Plasencia Alma Fuerte Robustus I the “2020 Cigar of the Year”. This marks the third Top 25 for Plasencia Cigars since 2016 (previous top 25 ranking in Cigar Aficionado and Cigar Snob Magazine).

Plasencia Cigars CEO Nestor Andres Plasencia stated: “We are both grateful and honored that the cigar tasting panel at Cigar Journal recognized the Alma Fuerte Robustus I as the 2020 Cigar of the Year. We also wanted to thank the publisher of Cigar Journal, Mr. Reinhold Widmayer. Most of all, we wanted to recognize the retailers and public who have welcomed our brand with open arms.”

Cigar Journal’s description of the Plasencia Alma Fuerte Robustus I:  Alma means soul and reflects the core knowledge of the family – to cultivate excellent tobacco. The Alma Fuerte Robustus I embodies exactly that: a blend that is second to none, made from Nicaraguan top-quality tobacco. With the Alma Fuerte Robustus I, we particularly liked the depth of taste, which is particularly noticeable from the second third.

Tasting notes by Cigar Journal:

Pepperiness and caramel/cinnamon sweetness are a good match in this almost black box-pressed cigar. It develops cedary, nutty and coffee aromas with herbal spice. During the smoke it becomes more expressive.


The Plasencia Alma Fuerte Robustus I is a Nicaraguan puro using tobacco from the vast Plasencia library of tobaccos. The blend is expressed in a 51/2 X 52 Robusto vitola and comes in a 10-count box. MRSP is $18.65.

 For more information, visit:, and follow @PlasenciaCigars on social media.

California's Flavored Tobacco Ban Likely Delayed Until 2022

-December 11, 2020

By Charlie Minato - Halfwheel

California’s flavored tobacco ban will likely not to go into effect until at least December 2022.

A campaign to have the new law subject to a repeal via a ballot measure has surpassed the number of signatures needed to get it on the ballot. As such, the law will not go into effect on Jan. 1, 2021 as planned and instead its fate will be decided during the November 2022 general election. The process to verify the validity of the signatures is now under way, though it seems likely that the law will be delayed.

Earlier this year, California passed SB 793, which banned most flavored tobacco products in the state. There were some exceptions, both hookah and loose leaf tobacco—meaning pipe tobacco—were exempt under some conditions. And flavored premium cigars could still be sold, but they needed to have an MSRP of at least $24, which meant that most flavored premium cigars would either be banned or need to have their prices dramatically increased. To qualify, the cigars need to have an MSRP of at least $24 and meet other factors like being handmade and having a whole leaf wrapper.

However, because of California’s direct democracy, bills that are signed into law have a chance to be repealed by the citizens. Big tobacco companies have organized a campaign to repeal the law and as part of the process, the bill won’t go into effect until the voters have their say.

Per the Cigar Association of America, the ballot measure’s timeline is as follows:

  • Aug. 31, 2020 – Proposed referendum filed with Secretary of State.
  • Sept. 10, 2020 – Deadline for Attorney General to prepare ballot title and summary. As soon as title and summary is completed, proponents may begin collecting signatures.
  • Nov. 26, 2020 – Deadline to submit signatures to county elections offices.
  • Dec. 8, 2020 (tentative) – After signatures are submitted, county elections offices have 8 working days to determine if the raw count of signatures meets the required threshold.
  • Dec. 31, 2020 (tentative) – After signatures are submitted, county elections offices have 30 working days to verify the signatures if the raw count threshold was met.
  • Jan. 1, 2021 – SB 793 takes effect on this date if the referendum does not qualify for the ballot.
  • Nov. 8, 2022 – If the SB 793 referendum qualifies, it will be placed on the ballot at the November 2022 General Statewide Election.
  • Dec. 8, 2022 – The General Election vote is certified.  If the referendum succeeds, SB 793 will be repealed on this date.  If the referendum fails, SB 793 will take effect on this date.

As of yesterday, the California Secretary of State had received 1,019,610 signatures, though some counties could remain outstanding. The ballot measure needed 623,212 signatures to go onto the 2022 ballot, which was 5 percent of the number of votes cast in the last gubernatorial election.