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Teen Experimentation With Cigar Smoking on the Rise, Says CDC Report


July 1997

Cigar smoking among teenagers is on the rise, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) May 22 Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Report (Centers for Disease Control, "Cigar Smoking Among Teenagers - United States, Massachusetts, and New York 1996," Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Report, May 23, 1997, vol. 46, no. 20, p. 433; Sheryl Gay Stolberg, "Cigar fad reported to be recruiting legions of teen-agers," New York Times, May 23, 1997, p. A24; Marlene Cimons, "Many youths lured by cigars, U.S. reports," Los Angeles Times (Washington Edition), May 23, 1997, p. A6; David Brown, "Teen cigar use surprisingly prevalent," Washington Post, May 23, 1997, p. A3).

The CDC's report draws on findings from three surveys of cigar use among teens. The first, by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, was a national study that surveyed 16,117 teenagers. The second and third surveys were performed in two states, one in Massachusetts, the other in western New York. 6,844 sixth- through twelfth-graders were surveyed in Massachusetts, and 9,916 ninth-graders were questioned in New York. Analysis of the three surveys showed that teenage cigar use is on the rise, and that teens who smoke cigarettes and chew tobacco are more likely than others to try cigars.

Nearly 27% of all teens have smoked at least one cigar, and 2.6% smoked at least 50 cigars, during the past year. Thirty-seven percent of boys had smoked a cigar in the past year, compared to 16% of girls, according to the nationwide survey. White teenage boys were the most frequent users of cigars, 42% having tried at least one. [What is the significance of smoking a single cigar? It may result in disappointment or displeasure and the cessation of all tobacco use - RCT.]

Nationwide, cigar sales have soared during the 1990s, as cigar dinners and lounges have become increasingly popular. However, federal law does not require a labeled warning on cigars, and Food and Drug Administration guidelines do not restrict sales to teens. But certain states do mandate labeling and age-restrictions for cigars. "We were expecting a report in the single digits," said Michael P. Eriksen, director of the CDC's Office on Smoking and Health. "But given the magnitude of it we can't help thinking that it's reflecting some recent uptake in cigar smoking." [Is a high percentage of youthful experimentation with a readily available, strongly promoted, adult oriented, legal product really so surprising? - RCT]

There is a significant health risk to smoking cigars. The National Cancer Institute reports that twenty years of smoking a cigar a day increases the risk of larynx cancer sixfold. A cigar can contain forty times more tar and nicotine than a cigarette.

Researchers are also interested in another cigar-related trend reported by teens. The practice of making "blunts" by hollowing out cigars and replacing the tobacco with marijuana has been popular for many years. However, this activity does not account for cigar use in the surveys.

The report is located on-line at: