Industry Watch

Not Your Grandfather's Cigar

A New Generation of Cheap and Sweet Cigars Threatens a New Generation of Kids

Report Released March 13, 2013

While cigarette smoking has been declining in the United States, cigar sales have more than doubled since 2000, driven by an explosion of cheap, sweet small cigars that entice kids, according to a report released by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free kids.

National surveys show high school students are twice as likely as adults – 13.1 percent compared to 6.6 percent – to report smoking cigars in the past month, and young adults (ages 18-24) smoke cigars at even higher rates (15.9 percent).

Link to Store Report Slideshow

Tobacco companies have manipulated their products to evade regulations and higher taxes aimed at reducing smoking, especially among kids.

Under a landmark 2009 law, the Food and Drug Administration banned candy and fruit-flavored cigarettes.  However, because the FDA does not currently regulate cigars, tobacco companies continue to market similarly flavored cigars. Some companies have modified their flavored cigarettes to meet the legal definition of cigars (e.g., by adding tobacco to the wrapper) and continued to market them with sweet flavors.

When another 2009 federal law significantly increased taxes on cigarettes and small cigars, but taxed larger cigars at lower rates, some manufacturers added weight to their products to qualify for the lower tax rate. According to a recent Bloomberg News report, one manufacturer has increased the weight of its cigars by adding a clay material used in kitty litter.

The report calls for closing these regulatory and tax loopholes:

  • The FDA, which currently regulates cigarettes, smokeless tobacco and roll-your-own tobacco, should extend its jurisdiction to all tobacco products, including cigars, as allowed by law.

  • Congress and the states should equalize taxes on all tobacco products at the same rate as cigarettes to eliminate incentives for tax evasion.

  • Congress should reject pending legislation that would totally exempt some cigars from regulation.

Key Findings of the Report

  • While cigarettes sales have been declining in the U.S., cigar sales have increased significantly.  Between 2000 and 2012, cigar sales in the U.S. more than doubled – from six billion to more than 13 billion cigars a year.  During the same period, cigarette sales declined by 33.8 percent.
  • The surge in cigar sales has been driven by a dramatic increase in the number and types of smaller cigar products, many of which are flavored, priced and packaged to appeal to young people.  Cigars today are no longer just the “big stogies” smoked by older men.  Instead, the cigar market consists of products that vary widely in sizes, shapes, flavors and prices, making them appealing to a broader audience, including kids.
  • High school students and young adults smoke cigars at twice the rates of all adults.  According to the national 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 13.1 percent of all high school students and 17.8 percent of high school boys smoked cigars in the past month. In contrast, the most recent national survey of adult cigar use (for 2009-2010) showed that 6.6 percent of all adults smoked cigars in the past month.  Young adults (ages 18-24) have the highest cigar smoking rate at 15.9 percent.
  • In at least six states – Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin – youth cigar smoking now equals or surpasses cigarette smoking.
  • Flavored cigars are the most popular among youth.  The most popular cigar brands among youth – including top three brands Black & Mild, Swisher Sweets and White Owl – come in a wide variety of flavors.  Flavors include peach, strawberry, chocolate, grape, blueberry, wild apple, pineapple and watermelon.  Some cigars also have flavor-oriented names, such as “Da Bomb Blueberry” and “Banana Split,” with obvious appeal to kids.
  • Cigar smoking harms health.  According to the National Cancer Institute and the U.S. Surgeon General, cigar smoking causes cancer, heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).  Cigar smoke contains the same toxins as cigarette smoke, and many new cigar products are more easily smoked and inhaled just like cigarettes.