When you become an expat, you can’t help but miss certain foods or products from your country of origin. These are the items you ask your friends and family members to throw in their suitcase before they come down to visit you.
In my wife’s case, she always asks for Bush’s Baked Beans, Velveeta cheese (it’s expensive in Mexico) and a special chili seasoning from a particular grocery store chain in Florida. And, no — none of those items resulted in our friend’s temporary detention and fine at the Cancun airport a couple of weeks ago.
The item that did was Copenhagen smokeless tobacco that he was bringing for another expat. Just to be clear, it’s not illegal to bring smokeless tobacco, you just can’t bring too much of it. Our friend had 10 cans with him, which turned out to be too much.
The tobacco was discovered when his luggage was scanned at the Cancun airport. The customs official told him that the limit was six cans per passenger and he was led to a back office where he was assessed a fine/tax of $1,437 pesos, or about $75 USD — ouch!
The fine/tax amount wasn’t arbitrary. It was determined by multiplying the assessed value of the tobacco ($20 USD) by 373.56% and converting the amount to pesos.
The good news is that after paying the fine, he was allowed to leave with all 10 cans of his now very expensive dip.
Tobacco and Alcohol Limits
As you can see, it doesn’t take much tobacco to go over the established limits, and the same holds true for alcohol.
Here are the guidelines from Las Reglas Generales de Comercio Exterior para 2018:
Rule 3.2.3(X) – Passengers 18 years of age and older can bring a maximum of 10 packs of cigarettes, 25 cigars, or 200 grams of tobacco; up to 3 liters of alcoholic beverages and 6 liters of wine.
By the way, six cans of smokeless tobacco weighs roughly 200 grams.
Let’s Wrap This Up
Before traveling abroad, it’s always a good idea to do a little research into the Customs laws and guidelines of the country you plan on visiting.
While we’re on the topic, I’d like to point out that passengers arriving by air and sea can bring $500 of merchandise with them. And that my friends, equates to a lot of Velveeta and baked beans.