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Tobacco Information > Cigars
Last updated: August 15, 2016
Despite a decline in cigarette smoking in the United States, cigar consumption has been dramatically increasing since 1993.1 In 2009, 11.4% of young adults (18-25 years) surveyed reported past month use of cigars.1 Of all age groups, young adults (aged 18-25) have the highest rates of cigar use.1
- Cigars contain the same toxic and carcinogenic compounds found in cigarettes and are not a safe alternative to cigarettes.2
- Most classic cigar smokers do not inhale the smoke, as most cigarette smokers do. Therefore, the risk of lung cancer is lower for cigar smokers than cigarette smokers. However, lung cancer risk increases with more frequent cigar smoking and depth of inhalation.3
- Cigar smokers can spend up to an hour smoking a single cigar that can contain as much tobacco as a pack of cigarettes.3
- After cigarette smoking, cigar smoking is the second most common form of tobacco use among youth.4
- Among all age groups, cigar use is higher among men than women.5
- A handful of colleges have formed cigar clubs6
- Society for Intellectual Growth And Reinvigoration (SIGAR) Club at Yale
- The Cigar Society at Haverford College
- There are similar clubs at:
University of Chicago
University of Vermont
University of Pennsylvania
- The Columbia University Cigar Society was founded in 1995 and has approximately 350 members. The club’s manifesto reads “It is the intent of our society to bring together all persons who are interested in gaining of leadership and life skills, while acquiring the knowledge and appreciation for the world of cigars.” The club is officially recognized by Columbia University and receives university funding annually.6
Little cigars and cigarillos
Little cigars and cigarillos differ greatly from regular cigars.7 Little cigars are sometimes called "cigarettes in disguise", and unsuccessful attempts have been made to reclassify them as cigarettes. Sales of little cigars quadrupled in the U.S. from 1971 to 1973 in response to the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act, which banned the broadcast of cigarette advertisements and required stronger health warnings on cigarette packs. Cigars were exempt from the ban, and perhaps more importantly, were taxed at a far lower rate. Sales of little cigars reached an all-time high in 2006, fueled in great part by their taxation loophole. Today, cigars are still taxed far less than cigarettes. In fact, a pack of little cigars costs less than half as much as a pack of cigarettes in many states.8 In Maryland, little cigars are now taxed at a rate of 70%, compared to the previous 15% rate. Premium cigars are still taxed at a 15% rate.8
What are little cigars?
- Little cigars light and burn like cigarettes and users inhale the smoke, unlike with a traditional cigar.8
- Little cigars contribute to a multitude of diseases, including cancer and cardiovascular disease.8
- The only difference between cigarettes and little cigars is that the paper wrapping of little cigars contains some tobacco; any amount of tobacco in the paper wrapping removes little cigars from the cigarette category.8
- Popular brands of little cigars currently sold in Maryland include Winchester, Dutch Masters, and Captain Black.8
- Many small cigars and cigarette-like “little cigars” are produced in different flavors, such as candy, fruit, chocolate and various other tastes, which may especially appeal to children and teenagers.8
How much do little cigars cost and where are they available?9
- A package of little cigars sells at retail for approximately $2.00 to $2.50 for the premium brands.
- Comparatively, a pack of cigarettes costs approximately $5.00 to $6.00 for a premium brand.
- The tax of little cigars is 15% of the wholesale price of the product, making the tax on a pack of little cigars less than 30¢.
- Little cigars can be sold individually - sometimes for as little as a quarter a piece!
- The single sales restriction applicable to cigarettes does not apply to little cigars, therefore the packs can be broken down and the sticks can be sold individually.
- Little cigars are sold in the same places as cigarettes.
Why are legal groups advocating that little cigars be included in the definition of cigarette?
- Little cigars look like cigarettes, smoke like cigarettes and are harmful like cigarettes.9
- The availability of cheap little cigars as a cigarette substitute may cause cigarette smokers who are inclined to quit because of a tax increase to instead smoke little cigars, reducing the fiscal and public health impact of the 2007 tax increase.10
- The cheap cost of little cigars makes the product more accessible to young people and those with little disposable income.9
- Increasing the tax to make the price of little cigars comparable to that of cigarettes may reduce the risk that would-be quitters will switch from cigarettes to little cigars.9
- Some cigars, usually cigarillos, come in flavored varieties, including cherry, vanilla, peach rum, raspberry, and sour apple. Flavorings in cigarillos are not regulated by the federal government.10
What is a cigarillo?
A cigarillo is a short, narrow cigar. Cigarillos are smaller than premium cigarettes, but bigger than regular cigarettes. While cigarettes are wrapped in paper, cigarillos are wrapped in whole-leaf tobacco. Cigarillos can be found for purchase alone or in packs, and are sometimes made without filters. Unlike a cigarette, the smoke of a cigarillo is not meant to be inhaled, but rather puffed like a cigar.8
- Cigarillos are known in Europe as a 'Seven Minute Cigar'. Cigarillos can be smoked in seven minutes and are thus an alternative for individuals who do not have time to smoke an entire cigarette.8
- Cigarillos have nicotine levels (100-200 mg nicotine) that are generally higher than cigarettes (~8.4 mg nicotine).11
- Cigarillos are often machine made, resulting in a lower price than handmade cigars.8
- Cigarillos are often smoked in quantities similar to cigarettes (between 5 and 10 per day).8
Black and Milds12
- Recent evidence has shown rising consumption of the cigarillo brand, Black and Milds, among African-American young adults.
- Young adults aged 18-25 are more likely than other youth (less than 18) to smoke cigars, with over 10% reporting use in the past month.
- In a Baltimore study, 23.9% of young adult (18-24) urban African-Americans reported they had smoked Black and Milds in the past thirty days.
- Young adults who smoke Black and Milds may believe may believe that the products are totally different from cigarettes and contain no nicotine.
- Smoking Black and Milds may be underrepresented in surveys about tobacco use.
- Former smokers may view Black and Milds as a safer alternative to cigarettes and may switch to Black and Milds after quitting cigarettes.
Little Cigar and Cigarillo Legal Issues in Maryland
- In 2009, the Prince George’s County Council and the Baltimore City Health Commissioner issued a regulation imposing a minimum cigar pack size of no less than 5 cigars per pack.13
- The cigar industry challenged regulation, stating that county lacks the power to pass cigar packaging laws that are not “local” in nature and that state law does not allow county to regulate tobacco sales.13
- In July 2010, the Court ruled in favor of the county. In August 2010, cigar industry plaintiffs filed an appeal.13
- Baltimore City does not have the authority to regulate the cigar tax or tobacco product labeling.13
- No state or federal laws exist to regulate whether retailers can display little cigars and other tobacco products.13
How can public health officials and policymakers help?
- Ban flavored cigars.
- Out of more than 1,500 Baltimore teens interviewed by high school students working with the Community Law in Action, 35 percent of boys and 25 percent of girls reported trying flavored cigars.
- The FDA has not yet banned the sale of flavored cigars.
- State and local officials can support a flavored cigar ban in Maryland.
- While no legislation has passed in Maryland, Maine and the City of New York have successfully banned flavored cigars.
- Require cigars to be sold in certain minimum per-pack quantities.
- According to a 2007 survey of 500 retail facilities in Prince George’s County, single small cigars constituted the lowest-priced and most commonly requested item by people under the age of 18.
- A minimum packaging requirement for cigars will help keep cigars from youth.
- Prince George’s County and Baltimore City have successfully enacted legislation mandating cigars to be sold at a minimum of five per pack.
- Cigar manufacturers have challenged the five cigar per-pack mandate in both Prince George’s County and Baltimore City. The legislation is currently pending.
- Enhance product warnings.
- While there are product warnings on cigarette packages, there are currently no mandated warnings on single cigars.
- Cigar smokers overwhelmingly believe cigars are not as harmful as cigarettes. The lack of mandated product warnings on cigars enhances this belief.
- The Truth Initiative: Fact sheet on little cigars, cigarillos & cigars
- Tobacco Free Kids: The rise of cigars and cigar smoking harm
- American Lung Association: Cigars
- Maryland Department of Public Health: The Cigar Trap
- Center for Tobacco Regulation, University of Maryland, School of Law: Reducing youth access to tobacco by prohibiting the sale of flavored, single, cheap cigars
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Results from the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings, NSDUH Series H-41, HHS Publication No. (SMA) 11-4658. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2011.
- National Cancer Institute. (1998). Cigars: Health effects and trends. Smoking and Tobacco Control, 9.
- Mariolis, P., Rock, V.J., Asman, K. et al. (2006). Tobacco use among adults—United States, 2005. MMWR Morbidity Mortality Weekly Report, October 27, 2006. 55(42), 1145–1148.
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. (2006). Youth risk behavior surveillance, United States, 2005. MMWR Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, June 9, 2006.
- Baker, F., Ainsworth, S.R., Dye, J.T., et al. (2000). Health risks associated with cigar smoking. Journal of the American Medical Association, 284(6), 735-740.
- Columbia University Cigar Society. About us. Retrieved November 6, 2012 from http://www.columbia.edu/cu/cigar/index.html
- Connolly, G.N. (1998). Policies regulating cigars. Smoking and Tobacco Control Monograph, 9, 221-232.
- Delnevo, C.D. (2006). Smokers’ choice: what explains the steady growth of cigar use in the U.S.? Public Health Reports 121 (2): 116–9.
- Boonn, A., Lindblom, E. (2008). The rise of cigars and cigar-smoking harms. Campaign for tobacco-free kids. Retrieved October 23, 2012 from http://www.tobaccofreekids.org/research/factsheets/pdf/0333.pdf
- Lewis M. et al. (2006). Dealing with an innovative industry: A look at flavored cigarettes promoted by mainstream brands. American Journal of Public Health 96(2).
- National Cancer Institute. (2010). Questions and answers about cigar smoking and cancer. Retrieved from http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Tobacco/cigars
- Baltimore City Health Department. (2007). Black and Milds in Baltimore. Retrieved October 23, 2012 from http://www.baltimorehealth.org/info/2007_10_09_blackmilds.pdf
- Legal Resource Center for Tobacco Regulation, Litigation, and Advocacy. (August 2010). State and local news: Cigar packaging laws challenged. Tobacco Regulation Review, 8(1), 8. Available here.