For many decades, advocates and legislators have pursued legislation designed to curtail cigarette smoking, particularly by young people. Cigars remained an afterthought to cigarettes until cigar consumption rose drastically in the mid-1990s and manufacturers started to market cheap, flavored cigars particularly attractive to youth. In contrast to reductions in cigarette consumption across all demographics, cigar use has risen in popularity among adults and youth. In particular, the introduction of sweet and sassy flavored cigars and the accessibility of single-sale purchases entice youth to purchase cigars instead of cigarettes.
Two aspects of current cigar consumption and regulation underscore the need for policy change on the state and local levels: (1) the widely held misconception that cigars are a safe alternative to cigarettes; and (2) legislative loopholes.
The first aspect, the safe-alternative misconception, warrants attention because cigar smokers overwhelmingly perceive that cigars pose reduced risk and harm as compared with cigarettes. Many former cigarette smokers hold this view, believing that cigars require less or no inhalation. The lack of mandated warnings on single cigars—certain settlements between the FTC and cigar manufacturers require warnings on packaged cigars only—contributes to this misunderstanding. The misconception is concerning, in part, because it reflects the tobacco industry’s continued claims that it had been and would continue introducing other tobacco products, including cigars, that do not pose the same risks as cigarettes.
The second aspect, legislative loopholes, similarly demonstrates that the tobacco industry is succeeding in shifting strategies to gain record profits. Historic federal legislation noticeably covers cigarettes and smokeless tobacco but fails to reference cigars. Maryland law similarly fails to regulate cigars, as illustrated below:
|Regulations for Cigarettes||Corollary Regulations for Cigars|
|Minimum packaging requirement of 20-per pack.||No comparable state-wide requirement; Baltimore City requires 5 little cigars be sold together.|
|The cigarette tax is $2 per pack of cigarettes, with an additional tax of 43.9% of the manufacturer’s price.||Little cigars are taxed at 15% of wholesale price, adding just a few cents to the overall price of one cigar.|
|No state law or regulation prohibits flavored cigarettes; federal law provides such a prohibition.||Neither state law nor federal law prohibits the sale of flavored cigars.|
Legislators, policymakers and public health officials are uniquely situated to prevent the industry’s ongoing manipulation by implementing laws that discourage cigar consumption. Your leadership on the state and local level is best directed towards a number of cessation measures: