Warning for parents about flavored cigars popular among kids

Parents: Little cigars marketed to kids

By Lisa Bell - Anchor

ORLANDO, Fla. - With flavors like chocolate, cherry and grape, flavored cigars are extremely popular among kids, but they can be just as dangerous as regular cigarettes.

Even though you have to be 18 years old to purchase them, more than 40 percent of middle school and high school students who smoke report using either flavored little cigars or flavored cigarettes, according to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study also shows that among youth cigar smokers, almost 60 percent of those who smoke flavored little cigars are not thinking about quitting tobacco use, compared with just over 49 percent among all other cigar smokers.

"Little cigars contain the same toxic and cancer-causing ingredients found in cigarettes and are not a safe alternative to cigarettes," said Tim McAfee, director of the CDR's Office on Smoking and Health. "Many flavored little cigars appear virtually indistinguishable from cigarettes with similar sizes, shapes, filters and packaging."

In addition to offering a wide variety of flavors that appeal to young people, little cigars are taxed at a lower rate than cigarettes at the state level. Little cigars have become more popular in recent years; sales increased 240 percent from 1997 to 2007, with flavored brands making up almost 80 percent of the market share.

"Well, it's frustrating because you do as much as you can to protect your kids, and when you know that they're being targeted, it definitely is frustrating," said parent Kelly Payton.

People Local 6 spoke with could understand why the little cigars are appealing to kids.

"It looks like candy," said Melissa Cofiele. "I mean, it definitely looks like it's marketing to younger kids."

"You look at the packages, they look colorful, they look like they're candy, so I mean, it's just terrible," said parent Nathan Shelinbarger.

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