Cigarette smoking rates decline; cigar use increases

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Over the last decade, ACSH has been quite pleased to report on the steady decline in cigarette smoking, especially among adolescents. However, as we re too frequently reminded, not all the news on this front is good. Yesterday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that, while cigarette smoking rates decline, a growing number of Americans are turning to cigars and pipes instead.

While the adult per capita cigarette consumption rate decreased by 41 percent from 2000 to 2011, the total consumption of non-cigarette combustible tobacco, including cigars, increased by 123 percent in the same time period.

Although they contain a different type of tobacco, smoke from little cigars is often inhaled, and thus we would expect that they pose similarly lethal health effects. However, a few key difference have exempted them from various stipulations of the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. Furthermore, cigars are generally taxed at a lower rate, as compared to cigarettes, which may explain their recent increase in popularity.

The main information in the recent CDC report confirms the salutary trend in cigarette use: steady decline, said Dr. Ross. The uptick in cigar consumption is disturbing, since cigar smoke from little cigars is most often inhaled. While we don t have good data on health outcomes from such exposure, it seems quite reasonable to assume that the health effects of inhaling cigar smoke would be at least as dangerous as cigarette smoke, and effective public health measures to dissuade such use especially among young people is indicated.