Commentary: Where There’s Smoke – There’s Fire

The good news is that youth cigarette consumption has declined significantly over the past decade due to several factors, including effective tobacco control initiatives, higher prices, advertising and marketing restrictions and stringent laws limiting indoor and outdoor smoking. The new Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulatory authority over tobacco products will hopefully contribute to additional declines.

The bad news is that while cigarette use has decreased, sales of cigars have increased dramatically. Current data show that cigar rates appear to be highest among 18-25 year olds, with most of these smokers using little cigars and cigarillos. Maryland’s recent Youth Tobacco Survey found that in 2010, an alarming 79 percent of high school students reported using a tobacco product other than cigarettes. In Maryland, from 2001 to 2011, the total number of cigarette packs sold dropped by 33.6 percent. During the same 10 year period, sales of cigars increased by more than 176 percent. Other states surveying cigar use are seeing similar trends.

There are several reasons contributing to an increase in cigar use. There’s a mistaken belief that cigar products are less harmful than cigarettes. Little cigars and cigarillos are less expensive than cigarettes, sold individually and available in an array of sweet and candy-like flavors that appeal to youth. The Maryland study found that more than 76 percent of high school cigar smokers used flavored cigars, which mask the harsh taste of the tobacco and toxins and make addiction easier.

Cigars of all sizes contain many of the same harmful compounds as cigarettes and can be just as addictive. They pose significant health risks similar to cigarettes, including cancers of the mouth, lung, esophagus and larynx. And, cigars contain more tobacco than cigarettes. They burn longer, giving off greater amounts of harmful secondhand smoke.

What can be done? The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which granted FDA the authority to regulate tobacco products, explicitly addressed cigarettes and smokeless tobacco, but not cigars. Congress gave the FDA the ability to expand its authority to all tobacco products including cigars. Legacy® encourages the FDA to assert jurisdiction over cigars and apply many of the same restrictions on cigarettes to cigar products, including banning of all flavored products, requiring graphic warning labels, restricting advertising and marketing of cigars and taking measures to reduce youth access. What do you think?

Diane Canova
Vice President, Government Affairs

5 Responses to Commentary: Where There’s Smoke – There’s Fire

  1. Fred C, | February 21, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    At least some of the increase in cigar sales is due to the practice of hollowing out the tobacco and replacing it with marijuana, called a blunt. Has anybody got an idea what that percentage might be?

  2. Jane Maxwell | February 21, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    Please remember that a major reason for the use of cigars by youths is to smoke marijuana as a “blunt” cigar. The Texas School Survey reports that cigars are the favorite way of smoking marijuana, and since the smoking of blunts, which started around 1992 in Texas, the prevealence of smoking of marijuana by all youths increased, with a very large increase in marijuana use by African American secondary school students. We need to get both cigars and “blunt wraps” banned.

  3. compassion | February 21, 2012 at 1:35 pm

    The FDA must assert jurisdiction over cigars and apply the same restrictions that are on cigarettes to cigar products, including banning of all flavored products, requiring graphic warning labels, restricting advertising and marketing of cigars and taking measures to reduce youth access.

  4. maxwood | February 21, 2012 at 8:54 pm

    In major cities, one can at a bus shelter or other secluded spot see a pile of cigar tobacco on the ground, with a baggie nearby which had contained maybe a gram of cannabis that was “wRAPPed” in the cigar skin (note, the cigar company made money even though the user threw the cigar “filler” away). In the 90′s, “wRAP” music lyrics by artists with obvious referential names like “tupac” and “cool” mentioned this practice, well calculated to get young users hooked on nicotine via the cigar skins (and escalating later on to $igarettes). @Jane: you seem to feel that an increase in cannabis use was the major harm done by this “blunt” fad; what do you say to estimates that nicotine addiction (mainly $igarettes) costs the US economy $200 billion a year?

  5. Peter Fata | February 24, 2012 at 3:06 pm

    There is no doubt that the use of cigars in youth has a direct corrolation with the use of marijuana in it’s “blunt” form. There is a significant amount of high school aged youth who know this term well. It never ceases to amaze me how the cigarette companies sit around think tanks and plot our youth’s destruction. These youth will be the future replacements of the nearly 400,000 people who will die from cigarette products. They start plotting on them on the average age of 11-12 years old. I often remind new smokers and old smokers that they got played a long time ago when they were still relatively young and innocent. The price to be paid is usually postponed till adulthood but eventually you have to pay the price for admittance. That is when the crying and the gnashing of the teeth begins.

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