Ken Wassum, Director, Clinical Quality & Support
The Centers for Disease Control recently released data showing a significant decline (32.8%) in cigarette consumption. This good news is tempered with other data that shows a 123% increase in non-cigarette combustible tobacco. When all factors are accounted for the total consumption of all combustible tobacco decreased 27.5%.
Higher taxes on cigarettes have had the desired effect of reducing consumption of traditional cigarettes. But to get around this tax, more smokers are rolling their own cigarettes using pipe tobacco which is exempt from cigarette taxes. These can be rolled by hand or by machines that can be purchased online or at tobacco retailers. It is hard to distinguish many hand rolled cigarettes from their commercial counterparts as the rolling materials now come with filters and produce a polished looking cigarette.
The tobacco industry and their minions have been busy doing everything they can to skirt regulation and taxation on their products. To do this, cigar manufacturers have modified their small cigars to contain more tobacco while retaining their traditional cigarette size and shape. By increasing the weight of the small cigar they become large cigars and are exempt for taxation and regulation associated with small cigars and traditional cigarettes. According to the CDC, Small cigars decreased from 2.28 billion to 0.80 billion (-65%), while large cigars increased from 3.88 billion to 12.93 billion (+233%). Black and Milds are a popular brand of cigars among the young that fall into this category of large cigars.
The recent Surgeon General Report shows a dramatic increase in the number of high school age children who are smoking cigarette-size cigars. Approximately 1 in 5 male high school seniors report smoking small cigars, and concern that smoking of cigar may be increasing among Black females. These products are exempt from regulatory measures on flavoring and labeling as light or low tar. Young smokers are attracted to flavored tobacco making these cigar products and pipe tobacco an attractive and affordable option. Studies have shown a clear association between smoking initiation by youth and flavorings in tobacco products.
Efforts (H.R. 1639) by DC-Representative Jon Runyan (R-NJ) and Representative Tom Price (R-GA) and a similar bill in the Senate (S. 1461) are both designed to protect large cigars from regulatory action. The argument is that these products are premium cigars and not smoked by youth. Further draped in garb of job-killing legislation these bills only serve to retain the gap in regulatory efforts and present a loop hole that the tobacco industry has already exploited to attract and addict our youth.
Ken Wassum has been treating tobacco users for over 19 years. He is past President of The Association for the Treatment of Tobacco Use and Dependence and previously served on its Board of Directors. Join him as he blogs about the effects of the tobacco epidemic, the efforts of cessation advocates, and the work left for us to rid the world of nicotine addiction. Read Ken Wassum's blog posts.
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