Skip to main content
Fact Sheet Fact Sheet

Cigars: Facts, stats and regulations

Download report

Cigars are defined in the United States tax code as “any roll of tobacco wrapped in leaf tobacco or in any substance containing tobacco” that does not meet the definition of a cigarette. At least three major cigar products — little cigars, large cigars and cigarillos — exist in the category. These cigar products are sold in a variety of flavors, including candy and fruit flavors, such as sour apple, cherry, grape, chocolate and menthol.

Cigar smokers are misinformed about the health risks. To spread the truth about little cigars, cigarillos and cigars, we’ve summarized the truth for you to know, use and share.

PATTERNS OF USE

YOUTH

Current, or past 30-day, cigar use was 7.6% among all high school students and 2.3% among all middle school students in 2019, according to the National Youth Tobacco Survey. By comparison, current cigarette use was 5.8% among high school students.

  • An estimated 1,350 youth between the ages of 12 and 17 in the U.S. smoked their first cigar each day in 2018.
  • Among middle and high schoolers who have never smoked cigars, 28% were curious about smoking cigars and 35.9% reported susceptibility to cigars.
  • Among youth ages 12-17 who reported past month use of cigars in 2018, 8.5% reported daily or almost daily use of these products. In 2019, among high school current cigar users, 17.3% used the product on 20 or more days in the past 30 days.
  • Cigars are often hollowed out and used to smoke marijuana. The marijuana-filled cigar wrapper is called a “blunt.” More than half of youth past 30-day cigar users reported using blunts. In the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), the estimated prevalence of current blunt use among current youth cigar users was 58.2%.

YOUNG ADULTS & ADULTS 

Data from the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows that while cigarette use among U.S. adults has steadily declined since 2003, adult cigar use has remained almost flat. 

  • Adult cigar use is higher among younger adults. In the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, young adults ages 18-25 had the highest prevalence of past month cigar use (8.6%) compared to youth ages 12-17 (1.7%) and adults ages 26 or older (4.1%).
  • An estimated 3,414 young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 initiate cigar smoking each day, compared to 1,465 adults aged 26 or older.
  • Among adults who reported past month use of cigars in 2018, 20.1% reported daily or almost daily use of these products.
  • More adult males report using cigar products “every day” or “some days” (6.8%) compared to adult females (1.1%). More African American adults reported using cigar products every day or some days (4.9%), compared to whites (4.1%) and Hispanics (2.8%).

HEALTH EFFECTS

Cigars cost lives and pose significant economic costs. 

  • A 2012 study found that cigar smoking was responsible for approximately 9,000 premature deaths among adults aged 35 and older in the U.S. These deaths represented almost 140,000 years of potential life lost and monetary loss of $22.9 billion.20 A recent study found that the removal of flavored cigars from the market would result in an estimated 800 fewer cigar smoking-attributable deaths in the U.S. each year and 112,000 fewer cigar smokers in each cohort of 18 year olds.
  • Cigar smoking is associated with a higher risk of oral, esophageal, laryngeal and lung cancer. Cigar smokers have a marked increase in risk for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and experience higher mortality from COPD than do non-smokers. 
  • Though cigar smoke is generally similar to cigarette smoke, it contains higher levels of harmful constituents including tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNAs), NNK, carbon monoxide (CO), ammonia, and tar.

PERCEPTIONS OF CIGARS IN THE U.S.

Cigar users significantly underestimate the health risks of cigars.

  • Some cigar smokers indicate that they either did not know whether cigars were more or less harmful than cigarettes or perceived cigars to be less harmful than cigarettes. These misperceptions of the health risks were higher in specific demographic groups — young adults and black youth, in particular.
  • More students in eighth, 10th and 12th grades perceived a great risk in smoking one or more packs of cigarettes per day — 64.4%, 73% and 75.5% — compared to smoking little cigars or cigarillos regularly — 36.6%, 42.3% and 43.8%. More eighth and 10th grade students perceived a great risk in smoking one to five cigarettes per day — 39.3% and 48.8% —compared to smoking little cigars or cigarillos regularly.
  • In a nationally representative sample of young adults ages 18-34, more respondents rated cigars as less risky than cigarettes (13.9%) than they rated other tobacco products, including noncombustible snus (10%) and other smokeless tobacco products (7.1%).

INDUSTRY MARKETING

Cigar smoking in the United States rose dramatically in the 1990s and 2000s, in part due to cigar marketing strategies.

  • Recent studies have shown that cigar companies package some small cigars to look similar to cigarettes and sell them in the same places that cigarettes are sold. They also use similar social media marketing tactics that cigarette companies use, as well as previous cigarette company marketing tactics, such as celebrity endorsements.
  • One study found that cigar, little cigar and cigarillo advertising on the exterior of retail outlets is significantly more prevalent in neighborhoods with African Americans and young adults. This study also showed that little cigars and cigarillos are more available, cheaper and highly advertised in African American neighborhoods.

 

Download report