DETROIT (WWJ) – A new study shows the use of cigars and cigarillos has significantly risen among young people, in part because of their appeal through lower prices and sweet flavors.
The study, published by the American Journal of Public Health, measures brand usage trends and the prevalence of cigar use among specific populations.
Unlike cigarettes, which are wrapped in white paper, little cigars are wrapped in a brown, paper-like substance that contains some tobacco leaf. Cigarillos are longer, slimmer versions of a large cigar.
Increased use of these products is of particular concern, as users may believe that cigarillos and little cigars are less harmful than cigarettes.
However, like cigarettes, cigars and affiliated products pose significant health risks, contributing to cancers of the mouth, lung, esophagus, and larynx and possibly contributing to the development of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Dr. Cheryl G. Healton, DrPH, President and Chief Executive Officer of Legacy (the nation’s largest organization devoted to tobacco use prevention and cessation), said the increased use of these products is extremely troubling.
“While much effort has been focused over the past decade to increasing awareness about cigarettes and the dangers of smoking, cigar products have emerged as a profitable product for tobacco companies that, unlike cigarettes, are currently unregulated by the FDA and are taxed at a much lower rate. Unfortunately, young adults are taking the bait and the growth in this market is a troubling concern for the public health,” Dr. Healton said in a written statement.
Study results found that the top five brands most frequently smoked were Black & Mild, Swisher Sweets, Phillies, White Owl, and Garcia y Vega, all of which are primarily cigarillos or little cigar products.
Use of these top five brands was more prevalent among those who were younger, male, Black non-Hispanics, with a propensity for risk behavior, and those reporting current cigarette, marijuana, and blunt use.
Cigars can be just as harmful as cigarettes. To date, cigarillos and little cigars are not regulated compared to cigarettes. In addition, lower taxes on these products (thus lower price points) may lead smokers to choose cigars and cigarillos over cigarettes.
In 2009, the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Act allowed the Food and Drug Administration to ban all flavors of cigarettes except menthol. However, such restrictions on cigars were not put into place.
Additionally, packaging on these products does not always carry a warning label, and so health warnings may go unnoticed by cigar users.