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Billed as "the largest international gathering of enthusiasts of the best cigar in the world: the Habano," Cuba's 15th annual Cigar Festival began on Tuesday in Havana. It's a bash that attracts cigar aficionados from some 70 countries. The festivities ended Saturday with an auction of expensive humidors that organizers hope will raise $1 million for the Cuban health system.

The annual event includes grand receptions, tasting rooms, visits to plantations and factories, classes on how to roll cigars and a lavish dinner that closes the festival. It's a paradise for smokers who bridle under smoking bans. Participants can puff away at all events.

Cuba has produced some of the world's highest-quality tobacco since the 18th century, and the island's cigars are created using the same handmade method dating back to the mid-19th century.

European countries are the largest market for Cuba's $416 million annual cigar business, especially Spain. Cuba cannot legally export cigars to the United States under a 51-year-old U.S. trade embargo. Cuba's most famous cigar smoker, Fidel Castro, gave up smoking years ago.


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