After a ban was imposed in early March 2020 on cafés and restaurants from serving shisha and tobacco as a precaution against the spread of COVID-19, the ban was lifted in May 2021, with smoking areas reopened and restaurants and cafés were allowed to start serving shisha once again. The protocols for shisha cafés are to allow only vaccinated customers to enter the café, according to their status on the Tawakkalna application.
In 2021, volume sales of cigars and cigarillos continued to decline. The VAT (excise) tax imposed on these products increased from 5% in 2019 to 15% in July 2020, making them much more expensive.
With the onset of the pandemic and the rise of e-commerce in the country, online platforms for the purchase of cigars, cigarillos and smoking tobacco allow customers to choose their desired products and receive them via home delivery. Launched in 2021, La Casa Cubana became the first authorised website from where customers can get such tobacco products online.
Cigars and cigarillos are increasingly becoming niche products for a very select audience, looking for a specific experience and high-quality tobacco. To some extent, the dynamics will mirror those in spirits, where there is an increasing focus on higher quality, lower consumption, and heavily regulated advertising.
During 2021, shisha consumption in some private homes rose, as at the beginning of the year cafés and other on-trade outlets were closed due to the lockdown. Some hookah smokers stockpiled to make sure that they had tobacco and shisha at home as a result of having to spend more time at home.
As online sales continue to grow in the country, it is very likely that sales via e-commerce will also rise in cigars, cigarillos and smoking tobacco, with more authorised platforms providing the option to buy products online with the options of home delivery and/or click-and-collect. The margin for the presence of online shops for the category remains large in the country.
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Cigars, Cigarillos and Smoking Tobacco
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