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?
Vice President, Government Affairs