Cigars flavored as if they were sold in a candy store — vanilla, cherry, chocolate, grape — are making it difficult for anti-smoking campaigns to get through to young people, according to a study by researchers at Rutgers. These flavors are also largely responsible for the significant growth in cigar sales over the last few years.
“The cigar market is the most heavily flavored of all tobacco products and for decades, tobacco industry internal documents have highlighted that flavors appeal to youth and young people,” said Cristine Delnevo, Ph.D., director of the Center for Tobacco Studies at the School of Public Health and co-leader of the Cancer Prevention and Control Program at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey.
“What we found was that the preference for flavored brands was high among females, minorities and young people,” she said.
Peter Hamm, a spokesman for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said national surveys indicate that every day more than 2,700 kids try cigar smoking for the first time.
“Dr. Delnevo’s research adds important evidence that flavored cigars are significantly more popular among young people, indicating that these products are undermining overall efforts to reduce smoking among kids,” Hamm said.
Researchers are hoping these findings will be used to convince the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to adopt regulations that would ban flavoring in cigars. Flavors in cigarettes were banned under the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act because of their appeal to young people.
“Our recently published research on cigars identified specific demographic groups such as youth and young adults that were more likely to report preference for flavored cigar brands,” Delnevo said.
“We think the information will likely be used by policy makers and advocates to encourage the FDA to ban flavors in cigars.”
For the study, researchers analyzed a national survey of Americans ages 12 and up, focusing on 6,700 survey respondents who reported smoking cigars in the previous month. They found that preference for flavored cigar brands was highest among young people, females, and minorities.
Of all cigar smokers, 94 percent of females reported smoking flavored brand, compared with 70 percent of males. Overall, 95 percent of 12-17 year olds reported that they smoked a flavored brand compared to 63 percent of those aged 35 and older.
Furthermore, black cigar smokers preferred flavored cigars over white and Hispanic smokers. Those who smoked marijuana were more likely to use flavored cigars to replace the tobacco with the marijuana.
“These results didn’t surprise us especially since females and young people tend to smoke menthol cigarettes because it masks the harshness of tobacco,” Delnevo said.
“Once the FDA completes the regulatory process to gain authority over cigars, it will allow them to propose additional regulations, like banning flavors, to prevent youth tobacco use and protect the public’s health provided that they have a strong scientific evidence base,” Delnevo said. “Our research is highly relevant to future regulations related to cigars.”