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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

Cuba is an island country in the Caribbean Sea just south of Florida, USA. In the eastern part of the island is Guantanamo Bay where the U.S. has a military base and prison. The U.S. has a perpetual lease for Guantanamo, based on a 1934 treaty. In 1959, the U.S. backed dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista was overthrown and Fidel Castro has, since 1961, headed a one-party communist government. [1] [2]

Smoking in Cuba

Smoking has long been an integral part of Cuban culture. Cuban cigars and cigarettes are icons in Cuba, and, as a tobacco-growing country, tobacco has long been one of the country's biggest exports. But the detrimental impact of smoking on the health of Cubans is widely documented and, despite Cuba's remarkable health care system, smoking rates and the rates of smoking-related diseases are considerable. Until very recently, the government has not stringently enforced its own tobacco control policies.

Cigarettes were long subsidized in Cuba. In August, 2010, Cuba ended monthly handouts of cigarettes to 2.5 million citizens as part of a plan to modernize the economy. The change affected Cubans born before 1956 (Cubans older than 55), who had received four packs of cigarettes a month for about 16 cents, or 4 cents a pack -- "way below cost," the Havana Times reported. Cigarettes normally sell for about 32 cents per pack at Cuba's state-run stores.[3][4]

Studies show that approximately one third of Cuba's population smokes. Doctors link 80 percent of lung cancers in Cuba to smoking, making the addiction a major killer. Cancer is the second leading cause of death in Cuba. But the country has started to try and rein in the addiction. Regulations enacted in 2005 prohibit the sale of cigarettes to those 16 and under, and all stores located within 100 meters of schools or health care installations have removed cigarettes from their shelves. Tolerance for smoking is slowly decreasing, but the government has started all-out public service campaign against the habit. Health warnings have long appeared on Cuban cigarette packages, but now those messages are in largeer print. Billboards and signs advertising cigarettes have been taken down and normally ad-free Cuban television programming started running anti-smoking commercials targeting teens and parents, in particular.[5]

In 2001, a World Health Organization survey of smoking in Cuba revealed that almost one of every three 12-14 year old children had experimented with tobacco. Cigarettes remained cheap in Cuba, however, including those manufactured in other countries. Export quality filter tips like The Populares brand, an export-quality, filtered cigarette, sold for as little only 60 U.S. cents, and even well-known brands, like Romeo y Julieta or H. Upmann were inexpensive at just $1.50 a pack.[6]

U.S. - Cuba relations

Cuba's deputy foreign minister, Abelardo Moreno said March 2005, in London that Bush administration "officials are publicly speaking of regime change in Cuba. They were already attacking us as sponsors of terrorism. Now we are told we are an 'outpost of tyranny.'" [1]

In March 2002, John R. Bolton, the then undersecretary of state for non-proliferation, claimed that "the United States believed that Cuba had at least a limited offensive biological warfare research and development effort" and had also "provided dual-use biotechnology to other rogue states." (In March 2005 Bolton was appointed as U.S. representative to the United Nations).[2]

While other Administration officials backtracked when challenged to produce evidence, Bolton hasn't wavered in his hostility to Cuba. In a 2004 written statement to Congress Bolton stated "I believe the case for the existence of a developmental Cuba (biological weapons research and development) effort is strong". [3]

The BBC reported January 19, 2005, that "US relations with Cuba have been stormy since Fidel Castro took power in 1959, and a US invasion failed in 1961. ... Under President Bush, the US has tightened trade and travel regulations still further. ... Washington has regularly criticised communist Cuba's rejection of political opposition, and jailing of dissidents. ... Two days after Mr Bush's re-election, state department spokesman Richard Boucher said: 'The United States condemns the Cuban regime's abuse of advocates of peaceful change and reform. We call on the regime to cease its repression and release all political prisoners.'" [4]

In July 2006, "A U.S. presidential commission on Monday urged Washington to spend $80 million to help nongovernment groups in Cuba." [5] (That is to "promote democracy" in Cuba as the National Endowment for Democracy does.) The full report from the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba can be found at


Related SourceWatch articles


  1. Cuba, National Geographic, accessed November 2007.
  2. Country profile: Cuba BBC, accessed November 2007.
  3. United Press International Cuba ends smoking subsidy to help economy, August 26, 2010
  4. Rishabh Singh and the International Journal of Cuban Studies Combating smoking in Cuba Student essay, June 1, 2008
  5. Lloyd DeVries Cuba: No Ifs, Ands Or Butts -- Strict New Smoking Ban Imposed In Cigar-Lovers' Paradise, CBS News, February 7, 2005
  6. Lloyd DeVries Cuba: No Ifs, Ands Or Butts -- Strict New Smoking Ban Imposed In Cigar-Lovers' Paradise, CBS News, February 7, 2005

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