The government asked tobacco companies to stop marketing to children years ago. Yet we still hear concerns about cigars targeted to children. How can this be allowed to happen?

First, understand that many Cigar sellers, including the Flying Cigar Company, do not market to kids. We do not feel the need to get kids hooked on cigars; these are products for adults who are in a position to legally purchase and enjoy them.

Nevertheless, you can’t deny what news outlets are saying: Teens are smoking more cigars these days than they are cigarettes. Why? Basically, cigarette companies had to stop flavoring their cigarettes nearly 25 years ago. But similar restrictions were not placed on cigar makers, which meant that many are still allowed to add flavors to their products. This has led a few companies to make cheaper, more accessible products with a variety of flavors—the sorts of things that feel like they are marketing to children.

Why Do People Think Cigars are Targeted to Children?

The Surgeon General’s latest report on tobacco use by middle and high school students says one in five high school guys smoke cigars. The number of teen girls who smoke cigars is on the rise, too. Nearly 3% of high school students surveyed in 2022 had smoked a cigar in the past 30 days, and nearly one of every 100 middle schools reported smoking cigars in the past 30 days. 

Is this because cigar companies are making a concerted effort to appeal to kids and teens?

Keep in mind that federal laws keep tobacco companies from targeting children in marketing campaigns. So there isn’t any direct advertising involved—though kids might still be exposed to ads for cigars when they look at their parents’ magazines, or when they see celebrities smoking in streaming movies and in social media.

But advertising is not the only, or even the main, issue. The Surgeon General has pointed out that small flavored little cigars (cigarillos) are more appealing to kids and teens than adults. And while cigarette companies had to stop flavoring their cigarettes nearly 25 years ago, similar restrictions were not placed on cigar makers.

And that has led a handful of cigar companies to make their products appealing to teens by adding flavors no longer allowed in cigarettes, like cherry. In fact, of the teens who reported smoking a cigar in the past 30 days in 2021, 44.4% smoked flavored cigars. The most popular of these products are known as flavored cigarillos, and they make up 94% of the market for “cigar” purchases. But these flavored cigarillos are not the same as the hand-rolled cigars that Flying Cigar Company and other similar vendors are selling. They are the mass-produced products one finds, for example, in gas stations and convenience stores—a different product entirely.

Under pressure from public health experts, physicians, and civil rights and community leaders, the Food and Drug Administration proposed a ban on flavored cigars in 2022. The FDA anticipates approving the new standard later this year.

We’ll note that something similar is happening with e-cigarettes (vaping). In fact, a 2022 survey found that e-cigarettes were also more popular than traditional cigarettes among middle-school and high-school students. (E-cigarettes were the most popular tobacco product, cigars second, and cigarettes were the third most popular.) Again, e-cigarette companies appealed to younger people by introducing enticing flavors—a tactic that is very different from what most cigar makers do.

How are Cigars Defined?

Again, the smaller cigars smoked by teens that one finds at gas stations bear little resemblance to the hand-rolled, robust stogies smoked by most aficionados. True, those small cigars fall into the cigar family because, technically, they are wrapped in tobacco leaves—so they fit the definition. (Cigarettes, by contrast, are wrapped in paper or another substance that does not include tobacco. That’s why they get classed as cigarettes.) 

Cigars are categorized as large cigars, cigarillos, or little cigars. Characteristics of the three types of cigars include:

  • Large cigars normally hold at least one-half an ounce of aged, fermented tobacco. This is as much as a pack of cigarettes! Most smokers spend an hour or two enjoying a large cigar. Two-point-seven percent of U.S. cigar sales are sales of large cigars. 
  • Cigarillos are short, narrow cigars typically containing about three grams of tobacco. They are three or four inches long and do not have filters. About 94% of the cigar market is cigarillos, much of this due to cheaper flavored cigarillos. (That said, there are more sophisticated ones; Flying Cigar customers love Bandidos cigarillos for their sweet and smooth taste and long burn, for example.)
  • Little cigars are about the same size as cigarettes and usually have filters. About 3% of cigars sold in the U.S. are little cigars.  

Again, both cigarillos and little cigars are popular among middle and high school students. Some brick-and-mortar stores sell little cigars one at a time, making them affordable to kids (and adults). Plus, taxes on cigars usually are lower than taxes on cigarettes.

talking to your child about tobacco use
Image by irynakhabliuk by Canva.com

So Are Cigars Targeted to Young People?

If “targeted” means “advertised,” then the answer is “no.” Any company that does so is doing so illegally.

But if targeted you mean “made to appeal to kids to get them started smoking”… that depends on the product in question. Most large cigars—the hand-rolled type with more complex flavors—certainly do not appeal to kids. Not all cigarillos or little cigars do, either. That said, there are a handful of companies who have gone this route, and for that reason have attracted the attention of lawmakers who want to keep tobacco (rightfully) out of the hands of children.

So, if you want to keep tobacco out of the hands of kids, the most important thing to do is start a dialogue with your kids and their friends. Gauge their actual curiosity, and share the dangers and drawbacks of smoking. This is consistent with keeping kids safe and recognizing that adults can decide for themselves whether or not to enjoy cigars in moderation.

Doing Our Part to Keep Cigars Out of the Hands of Children

Here’s one more factoid to keep in mind: Over a quarter (28%) of kids under the age of 18 buy their cigarettes, cigarillos, and cigars at brick-and-mortar stores. Hey, wait…stores aren’t supposed to do that, right? 

Exactly right. In 2019, the legal age for buying tobacco products went up from 18 to 21 years in all 50 states. Retailers cannot sell cigars, cigarettes, and e-cigarettes to anyone younger than 21. There are no exceptions for active duty military, veterans,or stores on tribal lands.   

Those age restrictions on cigar sales apply to online stores like Flying Cigar as well. For our part, we comply with all federal laws. This includes asking you to verify your identity and age when you check out. There is no way to skirt the law by ordering from an overseas company or using a fake I.D.
Getting retailers to follow the laws on the books is one of the best ways to prevent tobacco from getting into kids’ hands. That’s what we do here. So, if you’re underage, please wait. We hope to be there for you when you get to smoke that first cigar at your 21st birthday, and every party thereafter. We can even help you find your next favorite cigar, at a great price, at flyingcigar.com.

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