Nicaraguan cigar firm cashes in on "Obamania"

Tue Feb 3, 2009 6:21pm EST
 
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MANAGUA (Reuters) - While U.S. President Barack Obama tries to kick an old smoking habit, a Nicaraguan company has produced the latest in a flood of merchandise trying to cash in on his popularity -- "Obama" cigars.

Granada Cigars, a small outfit based in Nicaragua's tobacco-growing north, is using local and Cuban leaves to hand-roll cigars wrapped with a gold band that says "Obama 44," to commemorate the 44th U.S. president.

The cigars come in various sizes and strengths and the company says some 13,000 have been ordered so far across the United States. That adds to thousands of Obama products -- like comics, candy, hot sauce and even a sex toy -- that hit the market during the media frenzy of the Democrat's campaign and inauguration.

"Distribution is booming, the cigar is selling because of 'Obamamania' and we want to take advantage of that," company director Miguel Ramirez told Reuters.

Nicaragua's leftist President Daniel Ortega, a former guerrilla leader who fought a U.S.-backed insurgency in the 1980s, clashed with former President George W. Bush, a Republican, but has said he hopes relations will improve under the new administration.

Obama has pledged not to smoke in the White House but has admitted it is hard to quit after two decades.

U.S. companies have printed cigar bands with Obama's smiling face to celebrate his victory, but Ramirez says his specially made cigars are one of a kind.

Among the Obama-themed items expected to generate millions in sales are a soap bar called "The Audacity of Soap," after the president's "Audacity of Hope" book, and Ben & Jerry's "Yes Pecan!" ice cream, a riff on his "Yes we can!" campaign slogan, which boasts "amber waves of buttery ice cream with roasted nonpartisan pecans."

(Reporting by Ivan Castro, Writing by Mica Rosenberg, editing by Vicki Allen)