Small Cigars in Urban Communitites


Small cigar (also known as cigarillos or miniatures) sales increased by 115%, from 112.7 million cigarette equivalent packs in 2000 to 242.5 million cigarette equivalent packs in 2007. 

The popularity of these small cigars arises from the wide range in size, flavor, packaging, price, and marketing. Small cigars are available in various flavors including apple, cherry, cream, and wine.

Specifically, small cigars have become quite popular among African American youth in urban settings. National data on small cigar use reveals that 23.1% of high school seniors reported that they smoked small cigars in the past month.

Increasing taxes and setting minimum packaging requirements has been one of the most effective of these strategies to reduce tobacco use. A bill was submitted to the Baltimore City Council to ban the sale of single cigars. The bill was supported by the American Cancer Society  and local health departments who recognized the potential health effects from small cigar use in young urban populations.

7-eleven and other small stores did not support the bill; they thought the ban on the sale of single cigars would decrease cigar sales among adult populations. They felt that the issues with small cigars was a regulation issue and that the city and state could improve enforcement of existing regulations. The bill is currently on hold due to a court case in another Maryland jurisdiction.

To reduce small cigar use in urban populations several steps need to be taken:

  • Local health departments should educate residents about the potential health risks associated with small cigar use and compare the health effects to that of cigarettes
  • States need to improve enforcement of current regulations, specifically minors purchasing tobacco products

Current regulations around small cigars undermine the work of tobacco control policy, public health researchers and policy-makers. Effective policies should be put into place to decrease tobacco use in urban populations.


5 Responses to “Small Cigars in Urban Communitites”

  1. sbfphc Says:

    Seems this may be another example where company profits take precedence over healthy public policy, especially when it comes to protecting the poor.

  2. rathiasai Says:

    I was completely unaware that small cigars are such a grave public health threat and that almost a quarter of high school seniors have admitted to smoking a small cigar in the past month. In addition to banning the sale of single cigars, perhaps conducting focus groups with high school students could reveal more about their motivations for smoking these cigars and their knowledge of health risks associated with them. With this background knowledge, we may be able to brainstorm more effective ways to combat this problem. I am also saddened that stores are still allowed to sell single cigars, despite the fact that the purchaser is not able to see the health warnings on the packaging. At the very least, stores must be required to sell customers tobacco products with warnings on them, even if they are a single cigar. Although we have made significant progress regarding tobacco as a public health hazard over the past few decades, this blog post proves that we still have a ways to go.

  3. amilam3 Says:

    We did focus groups before and after surveying young adults. The majority of young adults said they smoked due to stress. Many believed that they were not addicted and could quit at any time.

    Unfortunately there is no requirement for single cigars to carry health warnings. However, some manufacturers put the warning on the product voluntarily.

  4. wandadavis Says:

    An intervention plan should be six pronged. It should include school based interventions, community based interventions, mass media/public education, advertising restrictions, youth access restrictions, and tobacco taxes/cigarette price increases. The aforementioned comprehensive intervention plan should involve aggressive media campaigns, teen smoking cessation programs, and social environment changes. The focus should be on multiple interventions because adolescents and adults are targeted by tobacco companies in multiple ways.

  5. pittskey Says:

    This may prove difficult in development of an intervention, particularly in targeting a young urban population. Frequently, these cigarillos are not viewed as a health threat, with cigar use in general often being portrayed in the urban media as socially acceptable; as well, unfortunately their use often involves other illicit substances such as marijuana.

    Just as with cigarettes, the long term effects need to be well publicized and visualized, and any intervention needs to include spokesperson representation of the communities affected.

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