Cigars were once a symbol of power and success, favored by movie stars and politicians. The old-time business mogul offering a cigar to his client after dinner was as necessary as offering a pen for the culmination of a deal. In fact the cigar has been a stereotype of power, telling the world “I’ve made it.” World leaders such as Winston Churchill and Fidel Castro kept their stogies close, that is until Fidel’s doctor told him to give them up for his health. And we can’t imagine Hollywood legends George Burns or Groucho Marx without their classic cigars. While the old-fashioned, large cigar holds the power, the new smaller flavored cigars are picking up market share among kids. The fruit and candy flavorings, as well as a little price for the small cigars, are making a big hit with teens.
According to the CDC report that used data from the 2011 National Youth Tobacco Survey, “more than 40% of middle and high school students who smoke use flavored little cigars or flavored cigarettes.” That’s more than double the number of adults, at 19%, who smoke cigarettes in the U.S. And almost 60% of these youth cigar smokers aren’t thinking of quitting. It should be noted that in 2009 when the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act was enacted, it prohibited the use of flavorings in cigarettes with the exception of menthol. Flavored cigars, however, are still available. Some of the small cigars are the same size as cigarettes and come in packs of 20, but because they are wrapped in brown paper rather than a white paper wrapper, they are marketed as cigars and taxed and sold at a cheaper price then cigarettes. The 20 pack of little cigars is the same size as a pack of cigarettes and is on the right.
Flavored cigars are just as dangerous to your health as cigarettes. Since some of the little cigars have filters, users tend to inhale them much like cigarettes. Traditional cigar smoke is not inhaled, but both types of cigars can cause health problems such as cancers, heart and lung disease. All cigars, traditional size or small and flavored, contain nicotine, which is a “contributing factor to the dependence-forming properties of tobacco smoking,” and “is considered one of the hardest addictions to break.”
According to Dr. Barry Hummel of the Quit Doc Research and Education Foundation of Martin County, there is a movement in Florida for local communities to pass resolutions regarding the sale of flavored tobacco. While the resolutions are not laws and do not ban the sale, they strongly suggest that businesses do not sell the products. Here in Florida 50 out of 67 counties have passed county resolutions against flavored tobacco.
Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the U.S. Almost 90% of kids start smoking by 18, before they are legal age to purchase tobacco. And nearly 400,000 young people become daily smokers every year, replacing the 443,000 who die from smoking. It doesn’t matter whether the kids are smoking little cigars or cigarettes, the numbers are too high and the future health of our nation is at risk.
The Florida Statewide Tobacco Prevention online course can help educators teach the dangers of tobacco and nicotine addiction to their students. Teachers and guidance counselors in both public and private schools with a current Florida DOE certification are eligible to take the course and receive 60 points for certificate renewal upon the completion of teaching six (6) tobacco lessons to their students.
To see Dr. Hummel discussing this topic, click here.