Some African-American and Hispanic smokers feel that flavored little cigars are less addictive and safer than regular cigarettes, according to a recent study led by a researcher at the School of Public Health at Georgia State University.
The study, led by Dr. Kymberle Sterling, an associate professor of health promotion and behavior, also found that some White, male cigarette-only smokers reported believing that flavored little cigars and cigarillos (LCCs) are less harmful than cigarettes “because there are fewer in a pack to smoke, resulting in reduced smoking intensity.”
And some White, female, cigarette-only smokers said they believed flavored LCCs weren’t as harmful because their ingredients were more natural or of a better quality than cigarettes.
The range of opinions among young smokers reveals the need for more accurate health communications about the tobacco products, according to the study, titled “The Most Natural Tobacco Used: A Qualitative Investigation of Young Adult Smokers’ Risk Perceptions of Flavored Little Cigars and Cigarillos.” The Oxford Journals’ Nicotine & Tobacco Research recently published the study.
Using several focus groups, the researchers delved deeper into how and why young people form their perceptions of risk surrounding flavored LCCs. The average age of the study’s participants was 25.1 years.
While some of the study’s participants said they thought smoking flavored little cigars and cigarillos (LCCs) was as harmful as smoking cigarettes, many “young adults believe that cigar smoking is more ‘natural’ and less likely to cause addiction than cigarettes,” the study noted. Their perceptions are important because perceived risk is a key predictor of smokers’ habits and whether they’ll successfully quit.
“Our study findings have implications for the expansion of regulatory action and public health communications about LCC smoking,” the study stated. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration “is proposing to deem LCCs under its authority. Once these products are deemed, our results suggest that the FDA make product standards for LCCs to protect the public’s health.”
Participants of various demographics mentioned inhalation, smoking regularity and smoking intensity as factors influencing their perceived risk. The researchers stated that future health education campaigns should provide “more reliable, factual scientific information about the contents of flavored LCCs and its health hazards.”
The study included 90 participants, with 64.4 percent who smoked only LCCs, 27.8 percent who smoked LCCs and cigarettes, and 7.8 percent who smoked cigarettes only.
The study’s other authors included Dr. Craig Fryer with the University of Maryland School of Public Health and Dr. Pebbles Fagan with the University of Hawaii’s Cancer Prevention and Control Program.