Producers and importers are fighting back with a number of safeguards to help consumers verify the genuine article.
Baqer Mohebi Enterprises is enhancing its efforts this year to ensure that the cigar customers are protected against the rash of fakers in the UAE market.
Cuban cigars are identified with quality markets so it’s no surprise that they’re also the targets for counterfeiters. The UAE has recently been struggling with an influx of fakes – mostly Cohibas – and many consumers with scant knowledge are being cheated.
Helping consumers to spot the fakes
It’s a problem that both producers and importers are facing head-on, reports Fares Nasr, Head of the Tobacco Division at Baqer Mohebi Enterprises, the official distributor in the region.
“Counterfeit cigars are on the run in the UAE, based on various factors such as price,ignorance about the products and the know-how of authenticity,“ Nasr explains. He identifies many clues that will help consumers to spot the ‘original’ cigar as a fake.
“First and foremost is the physical appearance of the vitola and its format in their cellophane packaging unlike the original which are in
wooden boxes.” He advises buyers to inspect the cigar boxes closely.
Counterfeiters tend to misalign logos along the box sides and don’t bother with official bar codes or holographic logos. The wooden cigar
covers inside are often flimsy and cheap.
Protection and education
Habanos is working constantly to help protect consumers. In addition to validation checks on cigar shipments via the official website, the bands on Habanos cigars are changed every other year on different brands, making them hard to copy.
Habanos also runs nationwide educational campaigns for aficionados in the region through events, collaborations and tasting sessions. Locally, Baqer Mohebi Enterprises is very active in campaigning against counterfeits.
“We supply resellers with ‘Habanos Point’certified signs to help validate genuine Habanos retailers. We report doubtful sales points. We also conduct regular inspections at the retail outlets, hotels, lounges and other points of sales to ensure that the cigars on sale are genuine”, says Nasr.
In the UAE, BME places its own ‘BME Holograms’ on all cigar packages next to the local authority’s warnings. A receipt given for purchases in an official outlet is also a guarantee of validation. The counterfeit seller never gives receipts.