Teens increasingly turning to candy-flavored cigars

By Carrie Johnson Weimar • Published: March 20th, 2012
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Cigarette smoking among teens has dropped considerably since the mid-1990s. That’s the good news. The bad news is that some of these teens are swapping cigarettes for flavored mini-cigars, or cigarillos … a trend that has many health experts worried.

It certainly doesn’t help that the little cigars come in kid-friendly flavors such as vanilla, cherry and chocolate. They are sold one at a time, too, making them cheaper than cigarettes, which can cost $5 or more for a pack. Some teens also believe little cigars are less addictive than cigarettes. That is what’s most concerning to health officials.

In fact, little cigars are just as toxic and harmful as cigarettes. According to the American Cancer Society, they contain about the same amount of nicotine, the substance that addicts people to cigarettes, and are just as likely to cause cancer. The candy flavorings make the little cigars especially dangerous because they mask the harsh sensation of smoking. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned the use of flavoring in cigarettes back in 2009 but didn’t include cigars in the law. Most states also tax cigars at a much lower rate than cigarettes.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cigar smoking is the second most common form of tobacco use among youth, after cigarettes. About 14 percent of all high-schoolers smoke cigars. But in some states, cigars are actually more popular than cigarettes. In Massachusetts, 18 percent of high school boys smoke cigarettes while 22 percent smoke cigars.

The state of Maryland is fighting this trend, along with special interest groups such as Mothers Against Tobacco. The fact is, no matter how sweetly it’s flavored, tobacco can have a very sour impact on a teen’s health.