A growing number of smokers are switching from cigarettes to small cigars, which are less expensive, but just as dangerous, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In a new report, the CDC found cigarette consumption decreased 33 percent from 2000 to 2011, while use of other kinds of tobacco increased by 123 percent. Smokers are looking for cheaper alternatives to cigarettes, which have become more expensive, as more states are raising taxes on them, according to USA Today.
Tax loopholes that allow “little cigars” to be taxed at much lower rates than cigarettes are contributing to the trend, the CDC notes. These cigars look almost identical to cigarettes, except for their brown coloring. Packs of little cigars sell for about $1.40. In most states, cigarettes sell for $4 to $5 per pack.
“The rise in cigar smoking, which other studies show is a growing problem among youth and young adults, is cause for alarm,”
Tim McAfee, Director of CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health, said in a news release. “The Surgeon General’s Report released this past March shows that getting young people to either quit smoking or never start smoking is the key to ending the tobacco epidemic, because 99 percent of all smokers start before they’re 26 years old.”
Michael Tynan, a co-author of the report, said little cigars appeal to children and teens because they are available in flavors such as vanilla, chocolate and grape. “They look like cigarettes,” he said. “They smoke like cigarettes. They taste better than a cigarette, because they have flavors. They are cheaper than cigarettes, because of the tax issues. But they are just as deadly. They contain the same toxic chemicals.”