Little Cigars are a Big Issue

Little Cigars are a Big Issue

The cigarette smoking rate has seen a huge drop over the years. In the 1950’s nearly half of all Americans had smoked cigarettes, today it’s fewer than 1 out of every 6 adults.[1] [2] This drop has come as we learn more about the health risks posed by cigarettes, as well as new rules on how tobacco companies can advertise the products.

But while the smoking rate has dropped, over the same time we’ve seen another disturbing trend: the sale of flavored cigars continues to climb.[3] Flavored cigars are usually sold as cigarillos or little cigars.

Cigarillos are short, narrow cigars. They’re usually about 3 to 4 inches long and don’t come with a filter. Little cigars are often roughly the size of a cigarette, and many include filters. One big difference between a cigar and a cigarette is that a cigar is wrapped in tobacco leaf, rather than wrapped in paper.[4]

Cigarillos and little cigars are loaded with nicotine, a highly addictive chemical.[5] There is no safe form of tobacco, and nicotine can affect the heart, lungs, kidneys and more.[6] Tobacco use is a major contributor to the top four causes of death among African-Americans: heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes. [7]

How much nicotine is in a cigar? Consider that the average cigarette has around 8 milligrams of nicotine, a cigar can range anywhere from 100 to 200 milligrams of nicotine.[8] In other words, just one full-sized cigar has as much nicotine as an entire pack of cigarettes.

Some well-known brands of cigarillos and little cigars include Swisher Sweets, Black & Milds and Dutch Masters.

Cigarillos and little cigars are popular in specific minority groups. This includes African American youth. In fact, African American high school students are more likely to use cigars than any other tobacco product. [9]

Knowing this, the products are often marketed to African-American youth across the country. Tobacco companies also work hard to keep African-American populations using their deadly product. Communities with more African-Americans are regularly found to have more outdoor advertising like billboards advertising cigarillos, as well as significantly lower prices.[10]

Delmonte Jefferson is executive director of the National African-American Tobacco Prevention Network, or NAATPN. NAATPN partners with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help educate African-Americans about important health issues. Jefferson said it plainly as part of NAATPN’s recent Same gun, Different Bullet campaign. “If you want to protect kids, if you want to protect black kids, then you have to address little cigars.” [11]

One reason for the popularity of these little cigars, especially among children and young adults, is the candy-like flavorings.

Other tobacco products like cigarettes and more recently e-cigarettes have had restrictions placed on them to prohibit fruit flavors. However, no such regulations currently apply to cigars, little cigars or cigarillos.

Cigarillos and cigarettes are also more easily available for people with low incomes. This is because by law cigarettes must be sold in packs of 20, while cigars can be sold individually. This means they can be purchased much cheaper, often for less than a dollar. [14]

Besides the harm from becoming addicted to smoking, many African-American teens are also using cigarillos and little cigars for “blunts.” With a blunt, a smoker will purchase and cut open a little cigar, remove the leaf tobacco and add in marijuana. A recent survey found that nearly half of high school students who have recently smoked cigars have also recently smoked a blunt.[15]

It’s also important to note that while premium cigar smokers usually don’t inhale when they puff, people who use little cigars and cigarillos will often inhale the toxic chemicals, meaning they get many of the same harmful effects as cigarette smoke. [16][17]

Tell your friends and family that little cigars are packed with nicotine and loaded with deadly chemicals. Find out how these companies are spending millions of dollars targeting African American communities, including kids and teens with their candy-like flavors, attractive packaging and low prices.

There are some great resources out there to learn more about cigarillos and little cigars.

To learn more, check out:

Are you or someone you know looking to quit cigarillos and little cigars? Tobacco Free Florida offers tools and services that are proven to help you quit smoking. And best of all, they’re FREE! Learn more and sign up at:

[1] Smoking and Tobacco Use: Current Cigarette Smoking Among Adults in the United States, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, [accessed 31 May 2019]

[2] “In U.S., Smoking Rate Hits New Low at 16%”,, July 24, 2018.

[3] Changes in the Mass-merchandise Cigar Market since the Tobacco Control Act, Delnevo, Giovenco and Miller, [accessed 31 May 2019]

[4] Smoking and Tobacco Use: Cigars, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, [Accessed 31 May 2019]

[5] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. E-Cigarette Use Among Youth and Young Adults. A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2016.

[6] Mishra A, Chaturvedi P, Datta S, Sinukumar S, Joshi P, Garg A. Harmful effects of nicotine. Indian J Med Paediatr Oncol. 2015;36(1):24–31. doi:10.4103/0971-5851.151771

[7] Kochanek KD, Murphy SL, Xu JQ, Tejada-Vera B. Deaths: Final Data for 2014 pdf icon[PDF–2.95 MB]. National Vital Statistics Reports, 2016;vol 65: no 4. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics [accessed 2018 Jun 12].

[8] Sweet Cigarillos And Cigars Lure Youths To Tobacco, Critics Say, National Public Radio. Published 26 August 2013.

[9] Gentzke AS, Creamer M, Cullen KA, et al. Vital Signs: Tobacco Product Use Among Middle and High School Students — United States, 2011–2018. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2019;68:157–164. DOI:

[10] Marketing Little Cigars and Cigarillos: Advertising, Price, and Associations With Neighborhood Demographics, Cantrell et al, American Journal of Public Health, published October 2013. [Accessed 31 May 2019.]

[11]Tobacco Companies Target Black Teens With Candy-Flavored Cigars, Published 21 February 2019.

[12] Sweet Cigarillos And Cigars Lure Youths To Tobacco, Critics Say, National Public Radio. Published 26 August 2013.

[13]Cigars, Cigarettes and Cigarillos: How Each Affects Health, US News & World Report, Published 9 November 2016.

[14] Sweet Cigarillos And Cigars Lure Youths To Tobacco, Critics Say, National Public Radio. Published 26 August 2013.

[15] National Survey on Drug Use and Health, Health and Human Services, 2014

[16] Cigarillos Same Gun, Different Bullet. NAATPN. [Accessed 31 May 2019.]

[17] Sweet Cigarillos And Cigars Lure Youths To Tobacco, Critics Say, National Public Radio. Published 26 August 2013.