Other Tobacco Products
Cigars, Cigarillos and Little Cigars
Cigars come in many shapes and sizes, but all types are made of air-cured and fermented tobacco rolled together with a tobacco-leaf wrapper. There are three major types of cigars sold in the United States: large cigars, cigarillos, and little cigars (cigarette-sized). Some cigars, particularly cigarillos and little cigars, come in flavored varieties, including cherry, chocolate, vanilla, peach rum, raspberry, and sour apple.
In the last decade, while the use of cigarettes has gone down, cigarillos and little cigars’ sales rates have increased dramatically. In fact, sales of little cigars have increased by 240 percent and cigarillo sales have increased by almost 150 percent between 1997 and 2007.
Large cigar sales have decreased by 6 percent during the same time period. Much of the increase in cigar use can be linked to increases in taxes on cigarettes, which are usually much lower than taxes on all types of cigars.
Health Effects of Cigar Smoking
There is a common misbelief that both large and small cigars are less addictive and safer to use than traditional cigarettes. However, cigars, cigarillos, and little cigars contain the same toxic ingredients as cigarettes, including nicotine, and can be just as addictive and harmful.
In fact, cigar smoking leads to many of the same negative health effects found in regular cigarette smoking. All types of cigars can cause cancer of the lung, oral cavity, larynx and esophagus. Heavy cigar smokers (and those who inhale deeply) are also at an increased risk for developing coronary heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Current Estimate of Cigar, Cigarillo, and Little Cigar Use in the U.S.
According to the Centers for Disease control and Prevention, in 2007, an estimated 5.4 percent of Americans, 12 years of age or older, were current cigar users. For adults aged 18 years and older, an estimated 7.3 percent of African American, 5.5 percent of Whites, 4.5 percent of Hispanics, 9 percent of American Indian/ Alaska Native, and 1.4 percent of Asian Americans are current cigar smokers. Young adults, those aged 18 - 25, have the highest cigar smoking rate of any group.
While there is no data for little cigar or cigarillo use for high school students in the United States, in grades 9- 12, an estimated 14 percent are current (all types of) cigar smokers. Cigar smoking is more common among males (19.4 percent) than females (7.6 percent) in these grades.
Marketing Cigars, Cigarillos, and Little Cigars
Much of the rise in popularity of cigar smoking is due to recent marketing efforts that have promoted cigars as symbols of a successful lifestyle. The campaign to increase the visibility of cigars has included endorsements by celebrities, product placement in movies, and development of cigar-friendly magazines, like Cigar Aficionado and Smoke.
Also, a review of formerly-secret tobacco industry documents finds that little cigars and cigarillos were intended to replace cigarettes as cigarette advertising became increasingly restricted. Advertising restrictions usually do not apply to cigars. Such marketing has helped Black & Mild (22.8 percent) and Swisher Sweets (14.4 percent) become the two leading brands preferred by cigar smokers ages 12 years or older.
Sources:American Legacy Foundation. “Cigars, Cigarillos & Little Cigars Fact Sheet,” June 2009. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Smoking and Tobacco Use. "Fact Sheet: Cigars," March 2007. Delnevo CD, Hrywna M. “A Whole ‘Nother Smoke” or a Cigarette in Disguise: How RJ Reynolds Reframed the Image of Little Cigars. Am J Public Health. 2007; 97: 1368-1375.