- Carolina Barriga
Fake Cigars - How to spot counterfeit cigars
Updated: Jan 25
Unfortunately, fake cigars are not only a Cuban-related problem. Today, we can find Nicaraguan, Guatemalan, and even Dominican fake cigars. But why would anyone like to buy a fake cigar?
While we don't think smokers intentionally buy counterfeit cigars, sometimes the allure of finding otherwise unavailable cigars or finding cigars that are cheaper than the market price can be tempting.
There is a tendency to wear and show off brands. People exposing an aspirational, high-end lifestyle on social networks focus some of their Instagram, TikTok, or Snapchat posts on the brands they wear. Some followers often obtain similar results by buying counterfeit brands, and it can seem to the naked eye as an authentic item. However, clothes and accessories are not in direct contact with your health. Cigars are. Read on to find out why.
When you decide to pay more money for a specific bottle of wine, for example, it's because of the taste and the characteristics of a particular grape or vineyard. You don't pay extra money just for the label; that wouldn’t make sense. With cigars it’s the same. You’re paying for the quality of a crop, for the harvest, for the artful fermentation and for the 100 other manipulations that occur before the finished product comes to be. Crafting a cigar goes far beyond just a label.
By the end of this article, we hope to give you some helpful tips on how to spot a counterfeit and what to look for in an authentic cigar.
What’s inside counterfeit cigars?
Fake cigars look legit outside and have strikingly similar-looking bands to authentic ones. Appearances can seem perfect, but what’s inside that matters!
Some experts claim that workers in the galeras (where cigars are produced in a factory) collect from the floor all the leftover tobacco from the day’s work… Oftentimes these scraps are combined with banana and other plant leaves to compose the tripa of the cigars. The downside here is that, as you might have guessed, anything from hair, dust, and/or bugs get swept up from the floor.
In addition to sweeping up scraps from the floor, fake cigars can also be crafted with poorly processed tobacco. This is a bigger problem. Continue reading…
Risks of smoking a fake cigar
Growing tobacco can be easy if you have the suitable soil, climate, etc., in your backyard, and you happen to have some excellent gardening skills too. But to produce a cigar, you need more than just the tobacco plant. There is a long and complex process to prepare tobacco leaves before you can smoke them. Most importantly, if the leaf is not adequately fermented, you could be smoking harmful ammonia.
Ammonia is a gas that occurs naturally in tobacco and needs to be eliminated through fermentation. Smoking ammonia can irritate your respiratory tract and cause coughing or shortness of breath, headaches, dizziness, and other long-term conditions.
Another risk, especially for those who enjoy storing cigars in a humidor is the bichos. Bichos in Spanish means bugs and they’re scientifically referred to as Lasioderma serricorne or ‘tobacco beetles’. Cigars are generally frozen prior to and/or after transportation in order to kill all the bichos and eggs that might have traveled within a cigar. The beetles are harmless to humans but they tend to propagate rapidly if left unchecked and once they attack one cigar in your humidor, you can most certainly be sure they’ll attack all your cigars making holes and rapidly eating their way through your tobacco.
How to recognize fake cigars?
We know that illegal operations are always finding ways to improve their cheats, but we’ll try to give you some well-known tips to help you avoid falling for the trap. Let's begin with the box.
Whether your cigars come from Cuba, the Dominican Republic, or any other country, boxes have stamps that you can recognize. In the case of Chateau Diadem and Dominican cigars, you will always find the green textured label as a seal of guarantee on the side of the box, as shown in the image below.
Before you invest in a box of cigars, take a moment to simply google the stamps that an authentic box of a certain brand should have.
You can also find out if a box of cigars’ content is genuine by analyzing if the cigars look similar in weight, size, and even color. At Chateau Diadem, we take the time to group the most similar colors in one box. We also weigh each cigar to make sure they correspond to a predefined weight for each vitole. Tobacco comes from nature, cigars are made by hand and slight discrepancies are normal. Still, within a box of premium cigars, you will always find the most similar shades and weights from one cigar to the other unless it is a collection of different sizes and blends.
Fake cigars are less expensive to make, but people still sell them to earn more significant margins. Try to get your cigars from authorized shops. If a seller tells you that a friend works in the factory and gets them cheaper, you probably should think twice as cigar productions are very monitored in terms of individual daily quotas. If friends tell you they've got a great deal on a blend that you know is expensive, simply use our tips and all the information on the web about the brand standards and warranty seals before smoking and/or hosting this cigar inside your humidor.
Use the plethora of information available on the web to avoid fakes. Suppose you are interested in authentic Cuban cigars. Thankfully, there exist hundreds of blog posts about the Cohiba Esplendidos (the most counterfeited of all Cuban Cigars) that can help you spot a counterfeit box of Cohiba. If you want to look into Cuban warranty seals and beware of the famous glass tops or any kind of translucent cover to a box (as these do not exist) to ensure you only buy real Cuban cigars.
There is no good reason to buy, smoke, or add counterfeit cigars to your humidor. There can be health risks and the risks of losing your collection because of the illegal origin of a cigar. Always buy from trusted authorized retailers; beware of too-good-to-be-true low prices and the absence of authenticity stamps.