From 2000-2010, cigar use among Maryland teens increased by 11% while cigarette use decreased by nearly 40%. Presently, approximately the same percentage of Maryland youth reported smoking cigars as cigarettes (see figure below). Many people often believe that cigars are a safer alternative to cigarettes. However, cigars are addictive and toxic just like cigarettes. Smoking cigars is equally dangerous, causes heart disease and cancer, and gives off even greater amounts of harmful secondhand smoke compared to cigarette smoke.
Source: Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. (2011). Monitoring changing tobacco use behaviors 2000-2010, legislative report: Appendix A: Youth prevalence, initiation and cessation. Retrieved from http://phpa.dhmh.maryland.gov/ohpetup/docs/HG13-1004d-FHA-BiennialTobaccoReport.pdf
Small cigars, or cigarillos, and little cigars are available in fruit and candy flavors. They have become increasingly popular with teens, making them vulnerable to future addiction. Additionally, their low price and availability in single packages make them easy to obtain and hide from parents.
Data from the 2010 Maryland Youth Tobacco Survey suggests a racial and ethnic disparity in the use of cigars as well. Hispanic and African American youth in Maryland are smoking cigars at higher rates compared to White youth. In 2010, the Maryland Youth Tobacco Survey found that 17.2% of Hispanic youth and 15.4% of African American youth reported smoking cigars in comparison to 12.2% of White youth (source: Cigar Trap factsheet). Current research is showing that higher availability, lower prices, and greater outdoor advertising for little cigars in minority neighborhoods may be establishing environmental triggers leading to greater use (Cantrell et al., 2013).
For more information on the dangers of cigars to our state’s youth, please check out the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s educational initiative: The Cigar Trap. At that link, you will find educational commercials, relevant information, and answers to your questions on what you can do as a health professional or as a concerned peer, neighbor, or parent.
Cantrell, J., Kreslake, J. M., Ganz, O., Pearson, J. L., Vallone, D., Anesetti-Rothermel, A., . . . Kirchner, T. R. (2013). Marketing Little Cigars and Cigarillos: Advertising, Price, and Associations With Neighborhood Demographics. American Journal of Public Health, 103, 1902-1909. doi: 10.2105/ajph.2013.301362