Cigarettes with characterizing candy, clove, and fruit flavors have been banned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) since 2009 to protect young people. However, flavored cigars, which are not included in the FDA ban, have seen an increase in both sales and use among certain groups, such as African-American youth. Research has also shown that young adult cigar smokers prefer flavored cigars.
In a study published in Tobacco Control this week, Ms. Adrienne S. Viola, an MD/PhD student at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Rutgers School of Public Health, along with Mr. Daniel P. Giovenco, Ms. Erin J. Miller Lo, and Dr. Cristine D. Delnevo, at the Center for Tobacco Studies, Rutgers School of Public Health, examined trends in flavored cigar sales between 2008 and 2014.
Using Nielsen’s Convenience Track System data, researchers coded flavors into key categories, including: fruit, sweet/candy, wine, liquor, clove, menthol and ‘other.’ In 2014, flavored cigars accounted for more than half of all cigar sales (53.3 percent), with fruit (20.9 percent), sweet/candy (12.8 percent) and wine (9 percent) being the most popular flavors. The Rutgers team noted the ‘other’ category rose considerably from 0.8 percent in 2008 to 6.9 percent in 2014, with two brands, Swisher Sweets and Middleton’s Black and Mild, contributing the most to this increase.
“Given the rapid emergence of ‘other,’ we sought to identify the nature of these non-descript flavors through internet searches of trade publications and other websites,” said Ms. Viola. “In 2014, Swisher Sweets sold two generic flavors: ‘Tropical Fusion’ and ‘Spicy Hot’ while Black and Mild sold three, including ‘Jazz,’ ‘Golden’ and ‘Royale’.”
The use of generic names, such ‘Jazz,’ and ‘Spicy Hot’, is concerning as it may serve as a way for the cigar industry to preemptively circumvent anticipated regulations. If the FDA’s proposed rule on expanding their authority over cigars is implemented, the FDA could take steps to ban flavored cigars. To avoid unintended exemptions to a potential flavor ban, regulators should be aware that flavored tobacco products may be deceptively labeled and any effort to ban flavorings should not rely solely on the language on the package.
“A Cigar by Any Other Name Would Taste as Sweet” was published online in October in the journal Tobacco Control.