99¢ For a 3-pack: Report Says Cigars are Attracting NJ Youth
As a federal agency considers a complete prohibition on flavored cigars, a report compiled by two organizations finds that these products have been flooding the market for years, appealing to young children and creating a new cohort of nicotine-addicted consumers.
The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and the Rutgers Institute for Nicotine and Tobacco Studies are calling on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to finalize its proposed rule — first announced in April 2022 — and get flavored cigars off of store shelves.
Cigar sales on the rise
According to their report, sales of cigars have more than doubled between 2000 and 2021. That's been driven largely by increased sales of smaller cigars, many of which are flavored.
The report finds that flavored cigars — grape and fruit punch, for example — make up about half the cigar market. Compared to the price of traditional cigarettes, the flavored cigar options are extremely affordable — sometimes as cheap as 99 cents for a pack of three.
"Kids are the most price-sensitive consumers in any market, and these cigars are cheap," said Kymberle Sterling, associate director of justice, equity, diversity and inclusion at the Rutgers institute. "The sweet flavors also appeal to children."
Behind e-cigarettes, cigars are the most popular tobacco product among youth, the report says. Each day, more than 800 youth nationwide try cigar smoking for the first time. And Black youth have the highest rates of cigar smoking — 1.5 times the rate of white high-schoolers.
"A lot of the data that we see is related to underage consumers," said Ollie Ganz, a contributor to the report, told New Jersey 101.5. "We also know that cigars, particularly flavored cigars, are popular among young adults."
People aren't using cigars as frequently as they'd use traditional cigarettes, and that may impact society's perception of potential harm from cigars, Ganz said.
In reality, a cigar is a combustible tobacco product that carries many of the same health risks as cigarettes, the report notes. Beyond the link to various cancers and heart issues, cigars contain and emit nicotine, an addictive chemical that can impact adolescent brain development.
FDA's proposed rule on cigars
The FDA says "when finalized," its proposed rule to ban flavored cigars from being sold would reduce the appeal of cigars to young users and improve public health.
The report says the FDA should finalize its proposal without delay.
The FDA has also proposed a full ban on menthol cigarettes.
Since April 2020, New Jersey has not allowed the sale of flavored vaping products.
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