When the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act was signed in 2009, it gave the Food and Drug Administration power to regulate the tobacco industry. The goal of this law was to ultimately prevent children and youth from using tobacco products and to reduce its effects on public health. At the time almost 73% of the U.S. House voted for the measure. Now, 220 cosponsors of HR 1639, that’s a majority of the House, are considering exempting certain cigars from FDA regulation. What happened to make all these representatives change their minds? The cigar industry.
A cigar, pictured bottom left, is defined as a “tightly rolled, dried and fermented tobacco product,” is unfiltered, and is generally not inhaled. Cigars of this size can contain as much tobacco as a pack of cigarettes. Flavored cigarettes (except menthol) have been banned by the FDA, but there is no flavor ban in the cigar industry. In fact the cigar industry has exploited loopholes that classify the cigarette-sized smokes as little cigars, meaning they can be taxed as cigars when in fact they are tobacco wrapped in brown paper. When the price of cigarettes started going up due to higher taxes, people turned to little cigars which sell for about $1.40/pack versus cigarettes which sell for $4.00 and up.
Many youth turned to cigars believing they are less harmful than cigarettes, but the truth is cigars contain carcinogenic compounds just like cigarettes. According to the National Cancer Institute, cigar smoke “is possibly more toxic than cigarette smoke as it has a higher level of cancer-causing substances, more tar and a higher level of toxins.” Even if they don’t inhale, a cigar smoker can get as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes through the lining of their mouth. According to the American Cancer Society, “cancers of the mouth, larynx and esophagus may be four to 10 times higher in cigar smokers that non-smokers.” And smoking cigars has been shown to increase heart disease, lung disease, pancreatic and bladder cancer, and oral cancers such as lip and tongue. Cigars are no safer than cigarettes.
The cigar industry says the FDA regulation will hurt their business. Yet between 2000 and 2011 cigar consumption increased by 123%. “Cigar smoking is the second most common form of tobacco use among youth,” according to Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “Every day, nearly 3,000 kids under 18 years old try cigar smoking for the first time.”
We need to tell our representives that we need to keep all tobacco products, including cigars, under the FDA regulation. Please take a moment to contact your representative and senators at their home location. This issue affects the entire U.S. Use this link for a sample letter to tell Congress to protect our kids and reject H.R. 1639 and S. 1461.