Cuba's subsidized cigarettes going up in smoke

Wed Aug 25, 2010 5:54pm EDT
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By Nelson Acosta

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba is phasing out its longstanding monthly allotments of subsidized cigarettes as President Raul Castro works to jump-start the island's sputtering economy.

Beginning next month, some 2.5 million Cubans over the age of 54 no longer will get their four packs of cigarettes as part of the country's ration program, the government announced on Wednesday.

"The Council of Ministers has resolved to eliminate cigarettes from the rationed family basket as of September as part of the measures gradually being adopted to limit state subsidies," an official statement said.

The cigarettes "are not a primary necessity," it said.

Castro has said that communist-ruled Cuba's ration system eventually will be eliminated as he moves to modernize the economy.

Monthly allotments of chickpeas, potatoes and a pound (0.45 kg) of sugar were removed from the system this year.

Many subsidized items were cut in the 1990s after the collapse of former benefactor the Soviet Union plunged the island into a deep recession.

But allotments of inexpensive cigarettes for Cubans born before 1956 were kept in place.   Continued...

<p>A man smokes a cigarette near a mural with a Cuban flag in Holguin August 21, 2010.REUTERS/Enrique De La Osa</p>