UPDATE: This article was originally written for April Fool’s Day, 2015
While the article pokes fun at a comparison between Cuban cigars and America’s cheaper, machine-made cigars, it’s worth noting that there are actually counterfeit cigars, even in this market. We’ve never personally seen such a case, but it never hurts to be cautious with every purchase!
We buy them to celebrate a newborn, we buy them for their exotic flavors, some buy them simply for their sought-after blunt wrappers… Whatever the reason, there’s no denying the satisfying experience from a true convenience store cigar.
But with recent changes in US policy, acting to ease relations with convenience stores, these little machine-mades are in higher demand than ever before. Aficionados and casual consumers alike are now flocking to these shops, eager to get their hands on the once-forbidden fruits of cigars such as White Owl, Swisher Sweets, Phillies Blunt, and Black & Mild. Relaxed regulations will allow the export of up to $100 worth of cigars from convenience stores, allowing an average of 165 cigars per visit.
One of the biggest concerns with hopeful buyers is the increasing practice of counterfeit convenience store cigars. Vendors have flooded the market with these bootleg machine-mades, and the unsuspecting tourist is often taken advantage of, sometimes paying upwards of $1.50 for a cigar that would retail for the usual 50¢.
5 Ways to Spot a Fake Convenience Store Cigar
We’ve cracked the code to spotting the frauds, ensuring that next time you walk into that convenience store for your Mountain Dew, you can leave with an authentic 5-pack of Swisher Sweets as well!
Purchase from a reputable source
It’s all too common for the novice to be swindled by cigar peddlers lining the streets of an average convenience store. Maybe it’s the worker taking their smoke break, they’ll claim their “brother” rolls the cigars and is able to get them at a discount. Or maybe it’s the cute and innocent girl scouts – what isn’t cute is the foul taste their cigars will leave in your mouth!
Real convenience store cigars will be locked behind a glass cage, and the clerk will most certainly ask for identification.
It’s not uncommon for a fake cigar to be sold in bundles for an unbelievable price. Buyers may be drawn-in to spectacular deals such as finding the sought-after Swisher Sweets Edición Limitada in bundles of 25 for $12. Such a rare cigar would not retail for less than 75¢ apiece.
This is what makes a convenience store cigar so desirable – the impeccable construction that only a detail-oriented robot could deliver. These “machine-mades” incorporate ultra-short-filler tobaccos, making for a quick, hot burn to give you the buzz you’ve come to appreciate. In addition, as the label states, “These cigars are predominantly natural tobacco with non-tobacco ingredients added.” With a typical fake, you may find whole, long-filler leafs used, lacking the more flavorful non-tobacco ingredients of a true convenience store cigar.
This is where the ultimate tragedy of a fake convenience store cigar lies. Because, after all, isn’t the flavor what’s truly important? There is a distinct flavor of a true convenience store cigar, having an unmistakable tar and ash quality, with a hint of spittoon aroma. Fakes will often attempt to reproduce these flavors with unexpected and wildly inaccurate results.
Some of the most popular varieties of these cigars are the wide selection of flavored cigars, this is often a good chance to spot fakes. Know your brands. Lazy counterfeiters will often create off-flavors not offered by the alleged brand. A great example of this is the infamous banana flavor Swisher Sweets Cigarillos. While the brand’s lineup includes a wide range of flavors, banana is not one of them…
Of all the signs, the cigar’s packaging may be the most telling factor. This is due to the recently added safeguards set in place by manufacturers, which makes it difficult for the counterfeiter to reproduce. A perfect example of this is the easy-access strip that ties the protective cellophane together. Pulling this strip should feel like opening a pack of chewing gum, allowing for instant access to that precious nicotine. Fakes will usually disregard this subtle step in packaging altogether.
And as expected, fraudulent cigars will most likely be banded with inaccurately reproduced banding, sometimes looking wildly unlike the original, as with the case of many White Owl counterfeits.
But of all the telltale signs of fraudulence, perhaps the most noticeable is the infamous glass top 5-pack, usually found outside convenience store harbors and beaches. This scam is very interesting, as the counterfeit packaging is most often more extravagant than the authentic cigars! Here you will find a conveniently packaged cigar box containing 5 cigars, the box uses a large glass lid, making for an attractive display to the uneducated consumer. Be warned, authentic convenience store cigars are NEVER sold in glass-top packaging! Instead, brands like the popular Swisher Sweets make use of a convenient cutout in the paper packaging, showing only the cigar’s beautiful red and gold bands.
Report Counterfeit Cigars
With convenience store cigar forgers becoming increasingly skilled in the art of counterfeit cigars, new fakes are being spotted constantly! Be sure to comment below if you’ve seen a fake convenience store cigar, as well as your tips on how they can be spotted.