May. 28 2008
Washington, D.C. — Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon and Baltimore City Health Department Commissioner Dr. Joshua Sharfstein have taken an important step to protect the city's children and health by proposing a new regulation to ban the sale of individual cigars.
The proliferation of individually sold cigars in recent years threatens to undermine efforts to prevent kids from smoking. Individual cigars, including so-called "little cigars," are more affordable to price-sensitive kids than regular cigarettes because they have lower excise tax rates and are exempt from state laws setting minimum pack sizes for cigarettes. Most insidiously, they often come in candy and fruit flavors, such as chocolate, vanilla, raspberry, cherry and cinnamon. They are often colorfully packaged and placed next to candy displays in retail outlets. The tobacco companies have a long history of using sweet flavors to attract new users, almost all of whom are children. Individually sold cigars also lack health warnings. According to Baltimore officials, individual cigars are sold for as little as 69 cents each and in a wide variety of flavors in stores across the city.
Like cigarettes, cigars are addictive and deadly, causing lung cancer, other cancers, heart disease and other serious illnesses. While cigarette consumption in the U.S. declined by 13 percent between 2000 and 2006, cigar consumption increased by more than 37 percent, according to the USDA Economic Research Service. Since 1998, small cigars have been the fastest growing segment of the expanding cigar market. Between 1998 and 2006, consumption of large cigars increased by 45 percent, while small cigar consumption increased by 154 percent. After cigarette smoking, cigar smoking is the second most common form of tobacco use among youth. The most recent data show that in 2005, 14 percent of high school students were current cigar smokers.
We applaud the leadership shown by Mayor Dixon and Health Commissioner Sharfstein and urge them to quickly implement the proposed regulation.
For more information, please see our fact sheet on cigars and the health harms they cause.