Who smokes cigars?
Cigar smoking is popular in the United States where a “cigar culture” is supported by cigar magazines, shops, and bars or clubs. Many cigar smokers think of themselves as connoisseurs, much like wine experts. They may view cigars as a sophisticated, affordable luxury that represents status and success. Some see cigar smoking as a sign of taste and refinement. This image is fueled in part by the efforts of the tobacco industry to glamorize cigars, and the willingness of celebrities and athletes to be paid and photographed smoking cigars.
Teenagers and young adults may be particularly open to this kind of cigar marketing. But the proposed link between cigars and success for the most part isn’t real. In fact, cigar use is much higher in unemployed adults than in people who work full or part time. In all, about 5 million people age 12 and older smoke cigars.
Sales of what are technically defined as “small cigars” actually decreased by 65% between 2000 and 2011. During that same time, the increase in large cigar sales has been dramatic — increasing 233% between 2000 and 2011. Some of these products now classified as “large cigars” are sold in packs of 20, just like cigarettes. Their size, shape, filters, and packaging make them look like cigarettes, except for their color. This shift in official reports of cigar use is mainly due to the tobacco industry making sure that small cigars now meet the legal definition of large cigars. This allows the tobacco industry to bypass the newer laws and higher taxes that apply to small cigars.
Some companies add strawberry, chocolate, and other sweet flavors to cigars, which appeal to younger smokers not yet accustomed to the taste of tobacco. As of November 2010, such flavors can no longer be added to cigarettes, but there are no such restrictions on cigars. This may lead to an even greater increase in cigar smoking as tobacco companies take advantage of the lack of regulation of these products. Taxes on cigars are lower than cigarettes, so they are much cheaper in most states. The low cost makes them even more attractive to younger buyers.
See “Why so many options?” in the section called “How are cigars different from cigarettes?” for more on this.
Cigar smokers in the past were mainly middle-aged and older men with higher education and income, but many new cigar users today are teens and young adults. According to 2011 research, about 18% of male and 8% of female high school students had smoked a cigar within the last month, compared to the average of 5% from all ages. And in many states, more high school students smoke cigars than cigarettes. Much of this is because cigars are most often cheaper, and are sold in candy and fruit flavors that appeal to teens.
For more information, see our document, Child and Teen Tobacco Use.
Last Medical Review: 11/08/2012
Last Revised: 01/17/2013