Flavored "Little" Cigar Use Among Youth Concerns CDC

9:37 PM, Oct 22, 2013   |    comments
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Recently government health officials warned electronic cigarette use was a growing problem among U.S. teens who may be drawn to the flavored products. Now a new government report shows some are also turning to flavored little cigars.

The report showed more than 35 percent of youth smokers puff on flavored tobacco products, which could include flavored cigarillos or menthol cigarettes. That's worrisome to officials because in 2009, the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act was passed to ban flavored non-menthol cigarettes. However, little cigars sold with fruit and candy flavorings did not fall under the legislation and may be attractive to young people.

"Little cigars contain the same toxic and cancer-causing ingredients found in cigarettes and are not a safe alternative to cigarettes," Dr. Tim McAfee, director of the CDC's Office on Smoking and Health, said in a press release. "Many flavored little cigars appear virtually indistinguishable from cigarettes with similar sizes, shapes, filters, and packaging."

Overall, about six percent of surveyed middle and high students said they smoked flavored little cigars or menthols.

The new findings were taken from the 2011 National Youth Tobacco Survey, a nationally representative survey of about 20,000 sixth through twelve graders on their attitudes towards and use of tobacco products.

The survey also revealed almost 60 percent of users of flavored little cigars are not currently considering quitting, compared to 49 percent of other cigar smokers.

Little cigars are getting more popular according to sales figures, the CDC added. Sales skyrocketed 240 percent between 1997 and 2007, with 80 percent of the market share dominated by flavored brands. The products are also taxed at lower rates on state level compared to conventional cigarettes.

The health agency pays close attention to youth tobacco rates and attitudes given 99 percent of all smokers pick up the habit before they turn 26.

"Flavored little cigars appeal to youth and the use of these tobacco products may lead to disfigurement, disability, and premature death," CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden, added.

The agency noted the Affordable Care Act will allow more Americans to get health care coverage, including preventive services that can help a person quit smoking.

The CDC published its findings in the Nov. issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health.

This isn't the only youth smoking trend officials are paying close attention to at the healthy agency.

In Sept, researchers dove into the tobacco survey and determined e-cigarette use doubled from 2011 to 2012, from 4.7 percent of surveyed high school students in 2011 to 10 percent by 2012.

E-cigarettes are not regulated by the FDA unless they claim smoking cessation benefits and as such may be sold to minors in some states. Forty attorneys general sent a letter to the FDA on Sept. 24 urging the government agency to regulate the products like they do standard tobacco products.

"We need to take comprehensive steps to reduce all tobacco use for all of our youth," Frieden.

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