Youth lured by flavored little cigars
11/1/2013, 6 a.m.
Flavored little cigars and cigarettes are attracting students in middle and high schools, and health officials say they present the same health hazards as other tobacco products.
More than 40 percent of middle and high schoolers who smoke flavored cigars and cigarettes are less likely to think about quitting tobacco, and CDC Director Tom Frieden says health care experts, schools, parents and communities need to take comprehensive steps to reduce all tobacco use for all youth.
“Flavored or not, cigars cause cancer, heart disease, lung disease, and many other health problems,” he said in an Oct. 22 statement. “Flavored little cigars appeal to youth and the use of these tobacco products may lead to disfigurement, disability, and premature death.”
The rising use of flavored little cigars and cigarettes among students was identified by a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report published in the Journal of Adolescent Health. It used data from the 2011 National Youth Tobacco Survey to measure how many youth are using the flavored products.
Among youth cigar smokers, the report found that almost 60 percent of those who smoke flavored tobacco are not thinking about quitting, compared with just over 49 percent among all other cigar smokers.
It also found that 35.4 percent of current youth smokers reported using flavored cigarettes, including menthol cigarettes.
In 2009, the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act was enacted and prohibits the use of flavors, except menthol, in cigarettes. However, flavored little cigars are still manufactured and sold with candy and fruit flavorings.
Dr. Tim McAfee, who directs the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health, says the products contain the same toxic and cancer-causing ingredients found in cigarettes and are not a safe alternative.
“Many flavored little cigars appear virtually indistinguishable from cigarettes with similar sizes, shapes, filters, and packaging.”
Little cigars and cigarettes, which are taxed at a lower rate than cigarettes at the state level, have become more popular in recent years. Between 1997 and 2007, sales increased 240 percent.
Ninety-nine percent of smokers start before age 26.
Smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States. Health consequences include heart disease, cancer, pulmonary disease, adverse reproductive effects, and the exacerbation of chronic health conditions. Smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke kill an estimated 443,000 Americans each year. It costs an estimated $193 billion annually in direct health care expenses and lost productivity.
For every one death, there are 20 people suffering from a smoking-related disease.