New Study Just One More Reason for FDA to Regulate Cigars

New study shows cheaper, flavored cigars attract younger, poorer, and minority Americans

Statement of the American Lung Association

Washington, D.C. (August 27, 2012)

The American Lung Association is deeply concerned by findings in a new study released today that show the use of flavored cigars among cigar smokers is highest in among young, poor, Hispanic, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered (LGBT) populations. The study, “Flavored Cigar Smoking Among U.S. Adults: Findings from the 2009–2010 National Adult Tobacco Survey,” was released today in Nicotine & Tobacco Research.

This is the third study this month showing this disturbing trend in cigar use among the nation’s most vulnerable populations:

  • On August 2, findings in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR),“Consumption of Cigarettes and Combustible Tobacco, 2000-2011,” were released, showing that while cigarette use has declined 33 percent since 2000, the use of large cigars has increased 233 percent over this period.
  • Another MMWR study released by CDC on August 9, showing current rates of cigar and smokeless tobacco use—particularly among high school boys —nearly match the rates of cigarette smoking, and that cigar use among African American high school students increased from 7.1 percent in 2009 to 11.7 percent in 2011.

Today’s study, which examined flavored cigar use among adults, found that 57 percent of 18-24 year- old cigar smokers say they smoke flavored cigars. Nationwide, flavored cigar use is highest in North Dakota, New Mexico and Colorado, while it is lowest in New Hampshire, New Jersey and Washington state.

All three studies highlight the urgent need for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate cigars – including flavored cigars. While FDA was granted immediate authority to regulate cigarettes and smokeless products under the passage of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act in 2009, the agency must assert authority over cigars and other tobacco products to begin its oversight. The Tobacco Control Act also prohibited the sale of candy-flavored cigarettes starting in September 2009, but flavored cigars—including those that look like cigarettes—are not yet regulated.

At the same time FDA must act to begin regulating cigars, Congress must also protect FDA’s authority over all tobacco products under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. Pending legislation in the U.S. Senate (S.1461) and the U.S. House of Representatives (H.R. 1639)—heavily “encouraged” by the cigar industry—would exempt many cigars, including candy-flavored and other cigars that are most popular among youth and other vulnerable populations, from any FDA oversight. This legislation must be soundly rejected.

Congress and states must also act to close the loopholes in tax codes that allow these cigars to be sold cheaply. Earlier this year, the Government Accountability Office released a study that found unequal tax rates among all tobacco products has led to “significant market shifts” as tobacco users switch to lower-priced products instead of quitting. This month’s series of studies reinforce this.

This study is also the first major national study with data specific to cigar use in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender population. The American Lung Association commends CDC for including this question and working to learn more about tobacco use in the LGBT population. In 2010, the American Lung Association released “Smoking Out a Deadly Threat: Tobacco Use in the LGBT Community,” which urged CDC and other agencies to ask sexual orientation and gender identity questions. LGBT Americans have been shown to smoke at a higher rate than the general public. It is essential that the public health community continue to learn more about tobacco use among the LGBT community. 

Use of any tobacco product, including cigars is not safe. Smoke from pipes and cigars contain the same toxic chemicals as cigarettes, and cause death and disease. The U.S. Surgeon General and the National Cancer Institute have confirmed that cigar smoking can cause chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cancers of the oral cavity, larynx, esophagus and lung, as well as heart disease. Each day, almost 3,000 youth under 18 smoke a cigar for the first time and 15.7 percent of all high school boys are current cigar users.

###

About the American Lung Association
Now in its second century, the American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease. With your generous support, the American Lung Association is “Fighting for Air” through research, education and advocacy. For more information about the American Lung Association, a holder of the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Guide Seal, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872) or visit www.lung.org.