The Centers for Disease Control just released a report, the first of its kind, on these little candy-flavoured cigars (candy flavoured cigarettes are now illegal, but candy-flavoured cigars are perfectly legal — that makes sense.)
“They’re really cheap, and they’re really sweet, and they have an obvious appeal to kids,” says Danny McGoldrick, vice president of research for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “They’re not your grandfather’s cigar.”
Many of these cigars have flavours like cherry, strawberry, chocolate, apple and even bubble gum. Yeah, some 50-year-old 30-year smoker is really going to buy bubble gum flavoured cigars. These are all about appealing to kids, make no mistake about it.
According to this 2011 study, just released this week, by the CDC, one in 10 teens say they have smoked these “flavoured cigars.”
Tom Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, called the new data “disturbing.”
“Flavored little cigars are basically a deception,” Frieden says. “They’re marketed like cigarettes, they look like cigarettes, but they’re not taxed or regulated like cigarettes. And they’re increasing the number of kids who smoke.”
“We know if they were cigarettes, what they’re doing now would be banned,” Frieden says. “If they were cigarettes, there would be a much greater awareness of their harm. But because they’re seen as somehow different, they’re getting another generation of kids hooked on tobacco.”
What’s interesting is that there is virtually no difference between a cigarette and a “little cigar.”
“What makes a cigar a cigar is that it has some tobacco in the paper. Little cigars — there’s just enough tobacco in that paper to make them cigars,” says Erika Sward, assistant vice president for national advocacy at the American Lung Association. “They really are cigarettes in cigar clothing.”
So just a bit of tobacco leaf in the paper makes a cigarette a cigar, that’s all it takes. So candy-flavoured cigarettes: illegal. Candy-flavoured cigarettes with a tiny bit of tobacco leaf in the paper: legal. Go figure.
He’s the truly bothersome part. Little cigar sales have more than tripled since 1997. Again, the tobacco industry is extremely skilled at finding ways around federal regulations and little cigars are their latest little trick to get around the ban on candy-flavoured cigarettes.
Now, the FDA banned candy-flavoured cigarettes a few years ago. They need the next step to ban these little sugary kid magnets. This one is a no-brainer.