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NY I82041

June 27, 2002

MAR-2 RR:NC:231:I82041


Mr. Carlos J. Alonso
Tobacco Product Buyer
Thompson Cigar Company
5401 Hangar Court
Tampa, FL 33634


Dear Mr. Alonso:

This is in response to your letter dated May 22, 2002 requesting a ruling on whether the proposed marking on your sample cigar pack and display box are acceptable for purposes of country of origin marking.

The product in question consists of a retail cardboard boxes, approximately 3-¾ inch (about 9.5 cm) square, each holding 20 small cigars and packed 5 boxes to a cello-wrapped, paperboard display box. The retail boxes are white in color, with a thin blue line running around the perimeter on both the face and the back. On the top face of the box, the legend montecuba tobacco appears. Just beneath are the words 20 puritos, the quantity of cigars contained therein. The brand name, a signature Picasso, is situated in the center of the top face. In the lower, right hand corner a sticker label bearing the Surgeon General’s Warning, “Cigars Are Not A Safe Alternative To Cigarettes,” has been pasted over about half of a similar, Spanish version warning. On the back face of the retail box, at the top, is the name Montecuba Tobacco Inc. On either side of the company name are two circular seals, one with the name Picasso at its center, the other with the words montecuba and picasso around the perimeter. Slightly below the company name, a sticker affixed to the box indicates that the cigars are Made in Ireland. In the center of the face, in capital letters, another health warning is printed in Spanish.. The sides of the box, on top and bottom, are marked 20 puritos montecuba and, below that, Picasso. The right and left sides are marked 100 % Tobacco.

The 5-pack cello-wrapped display box is a cut-away holder for use in the counter display of these cigars. The markings are similar to those found on the individual retail boxes of cigars. The front face, slightly over one inch in height bears the centered notation 20 puritos, 100 % tobacco, 5 x 20. In the right hand corner is a sticker indicating that the cigars are made in Ireland. The remaining sides of the display box contain a Surgeon General’s Warning, the notation montecuba tobacco, the Montecuba seal and the brand name, Picasso.

The inside of the retail box lid, which is visible to the consumer when the package is opened contains eleven lines of Spanish text extolling the appropriateness of the marriage of this particular cigar with the Picasso name. The 20 small cigars in the pack are contained in two layers, and wrapped in white, coated paper. This paper contains repeating lines of print, each line consisting of alternations of the words Picasso and montecuba.

With regard to the cigars themselves, it is stated that these are composed of “non-Cuban tobacco.” The wrapper is Indonesian Sumatra tobacco, with a Java binder and a Brazilian/Indonesian filler.

Your letter requests a review of the packaging format of the cigar box and master pack (display box), as per the samples provided. Specifically, you would like to know whether the Surgeon General’s statement and the country of origin statement fulfill the requirements for import into the United States. In response to your request, please note that Customs has authority to rule on country of origin marking requirements. While Customs enforces the requirement that a Surgeon General’s statement appear on some tobacco products, the responsibility for approving a rotation plan for Surgeon General’s statements belongs to the Federal Trade Commission. Noting your desire to assure compliance in the final packaging of your product, the following ruling on country of origin marking, as well as some comments on other aspects of your packaging, are tendered.

I. Country of Origin, Marking.

The marking statute, section 304, Tariff Act of 1930, as amended (19 U.S.C. 1304), provides that, unless excepted, every article of foreign origin (or its container) imported into the U.S. shall be marked in a conspicuous place as legibly, indelibly and permanently as the nature of the article (or its container) will permit, in such a manner as to indicate to the ultimate purchaser in the U.S. the English name of the country of origin of the article.

With regard to the marking of these goods, cigars are among those articles on the “J-List” of exceptions to marking, -i.e., they are “Articles of a class or kindexcepted from the requirements of country of origin marking in accordance with the provisions of section 304(a)(3)(J), Tariff Act of 1930, as amended (19 U.S.C. 1304(A)(3)(j).” While the cigars themselves are not required to be individually marked with their country of origin, however, Section 134.33, Customs Regulations (CR), requires that “in the case of any article described in this list which is imported in a container, the outermost container in which the article ordinarily reaches the ultimate purchaser is required to be marked to indicate the origin of its contents in accordance with the requirements of subpart C of this part.”

In the instant case, the outermost container in which the article ordinarily will reach the ultimate consumer is the retail box of 20 cigars, as previously described. In our opinion, the repetitive use of the term MONTECUBA (i.e., the use of the term MONTECUBA by itself, MONTECUBA TOBACCO, MONTECUBA TOBACCO INC.), as it appears on the submitted samples, infers a country or locality other than Ireland, the actual country of origin. This suggestion of a different country of origin is reinforced by the fact that the package is largely in Spanish, with the most visible English language items (namely, the Surgeon General’s warning and the country of origin) present only as add-on stickers. Section 134.46, CR, which addresses misleading marking, states that,

“In any case in which the words “United States,” or “American,” the letters “U.S.A.,” any variation of such words or letters, or the name of any city or location in the United States, or the name of any foreign country or locality other than the country of locality in which the article was manufactured or produced appear on an imported article or its container, and those words, letters or names may mislead or deceive the ultimate purchaser as to the actual country of origin of the article, there shall appear legibly and permanently in close proximity to such words, letters or name, and in at least a comparable size, the name of the country of origin preceded by “Made in,” “Product of,” or other words of similar meaning.

As a remedy in the instant situation, we believe that the placement of the country of origin on the front face of the retail box, in the same size print as currently appears on the sticker, would resolve any ambiguities that may arise from use of the word montecuba. With respect to the cut-away master pack, in which the 5 retail boxes are packed, the country of marking on the front panel of the submitted sample appears to be adequate.

The proposed marking of imported cigar packs, as described above, would be conspicuously, legibly and permanently marked in satisfaction of the marking requirements of 19 U.S.C. 1304 and 19 CFR Part 134 and would be an acceptable country of origin marking for the imported cigars.

II. Surgeon General’s Warning.

As stated earlier, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) administers Section 1333 of the Cigarette Labeling and Advertisement Act (Title 15 U.S.C. 36). Section 1333(a)(1) requires the Surgeon General’s warning on retail packages of cigarettes. This requirement mandates that one of four Surgeon General’s warnings must appear on the package, that these warnings be rotated in marking the packages, and that the manufacturer have on file with the FTC a plan addressing the rotation of these warnings. Note, however, that this requirement applies to cigarettes, and not to cigars. At this time, no specific requirement exists to include a Surgeon General’s warning on cigar packages (unless your company has previously entered into some such agreement with the FTC). Public inquiries regarding general FTC import requirements may be found at that agency’s website, www.ftc.gov. Should you wish to pursue any issue relating to the Surgeon General’s warning on cigars, you may contact that agency at the following address:

Federal Trade Commission
Division of Advertising and Industry
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20580

III. Labeling, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF).

The sample cigar packs and display box all list the contents as “20 puritos.” Labeling regulations administered by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms require “that every package of cigars, except as provided in §275.75, shall have imprinted on it, or on a label securely affixed to it- (b) The quantity of cigars contained in the package; and (c) For small cigars, the classification of the product for tax purposes (i.e., either “small” or Accordingly, if these are small cigars (i.e., cigars weighing not more than 3 pounds per thousand), the packages should be marked “20 small cigars” or “20 little cigars” wherever the designation “20 puritos” currently appears on the packages. If the cigars weigh more than 3 pounds per thousand, the boxes should indicate that they contain “20 cigars.” (See Title 27 Code of Federal Regulations, §275.73).

Questions regarding regulations administered by the BATF may be addressed to that agency at

Regulations Division, Room 5000
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms
Washington, D.C., 20226

This ruling is being issued under the provisions of Part 177 of the Customs Regulations (19 CFR Part 177).

A copy of the ruling or the control number indicated above should be provided with the entry documents filed at the time this merchandise is imported. If you have any questions regarding the ruling, contact National Import Specialist Thomas P. Brady at 646-733-3030.


Robert B. Swierupski

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