A study shows teens are dispensing with cigarettes and turning to flavored mini-cigars with fun flavors — strawberry, chocolate, vanilla — enticing to young palates. (National Cigar Museum picture) "Young smokers say these cigarette-size little cigars and cigarillos — slimmer versions of big cigars — look better and can be bought one at a time instead of spending more than $5 for a pack of cigarettes," writes Lena H. Sun of The Washington Post. "Many teens also think that they are less addictive."
After cigarettes, cigar smoking is the second most common tobacco product used by youth nationwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 14 percent of high school students smoke them (18.6 percent among boys and 8.8 percent among girls). Though the Food and Drug Administration banned flavored cigarettes in 2009, it did not apply to cigars. They are only available to adults 18 and older, but many stores in Kentucky do not ask for ID.
In many states, mini cigars are taxed less than cigarettes. Federal excise tax is about 39 cents on a pack of 20 cigarettes. The tax on cigars that are the size of cigarettes is 4 cents for a pack of 20. In Kentucky, the tax rate on a pack of 20 cigarettes is 60 cents. Other tobacco products, including cigars, are taxed 15 percent.
While more enticing and less expensive, they are just as dangerous as cigarettes. "You have the same cancer-causing chemicals but wrapped in flavors that don't let you experience the harsh sensation of cigar or tobacco use," said Donald Shell, interim director for Maryland's Center for Health Promotion, Education, Tobacco Use Prevention and Cessation. (Read more For a fact sheet on mini-cigars, on the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services' website, click here.