Cigarettes Down, Other Smoking Products Up: CDC
August 3, 2012

Decrease Seen In Cigarette Consumption, Increase In Alternatives

Connie K. Ho for — Your Universe Online

Gone are the days of “Mad Men” and big tobacco. Smoking cigarettes doesn´t quite have the cultural significance it had in the past in the U.S., with public health advocates promoting the benefits of quitting smoking. However, a study found that there´s been a shift in the tobacco products that are used in the country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported that there has been a decrease in cigarette consumption, but increases in other types of smoked tobacco.

Over the past 11 years, there has been a decline in the consumption of cigarettes. In particular, from 2010 to 2011, there was a 2.5 percent decrease. On the other hand, from 2010 to 2011, there has been an uptick in the use of pipe tobacco (482 percent) and large cigars (233 percent).

“While consumption patterns of traditional cigarettes have continued to decline, when we take into account these alternative cigarette like products, we´re seeing a lack of change in the overall consumption of burned tobacco that is being inhaled,” explained study author Terry Pechacek, associate director for science with the CDC Office on Smoking and Health in Atlanta, in a New York Times article.

The CDC believes that the increase could possibly be due to loopholes in tax structure and the classification system. For example, tobacco companies added weight to small cigars so that they could be classified as large cigars, allowing the company to save on taxes. The New York Times also reports that the Government Accountability Office has advised changing federal tobacco excise taxes to prohibit differential taxation.

Companies like Altria Group have stated that they would not be supportive of instituting a tax system of more than one level.

“Altria and its tobacco operating companies believe that little cigars and roll your own tobacco should pay the same tax as cigarettes, as Congress intended,” David Sylvia, a spokesman for Altria, wrote in an email to Bloomberg. “The companies support legislation at both the state and federal level to ensure that taxes on little cigars and roll your own are taxed the same as cigarettes.”

The study, published in a recent edition of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, included data from the Treasury Department who had calculated consumption for all types of smoked tobacco products. The researchers found that, due to differences in taxes for pipe tobacco and roll-your-own tobacco as opposed to cigarettes, there was an increase in sales for pipe tobacco. Pipe tobacco is seen as a cheaper option than manufactured cigarettes.

"The disparity in tax treatment of tobacco products is undercutting our ability to effectively reduce tobacco use and save lives," remarked Chris Hansen, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, in a statement to USA Today. "More smokers who might otherwise quit are now resorting to other types of tobacco products, including cigars and pipe tobacco, because of lower taxes resulting in overall lower costs. The CDC's findings are consistent with a Government Accountability Office report issued in April that found the same disparities in consumption of smoked tobacco products."

According to USA Today, while cigarettes are sold for $4 to $5 per pack, little cigars are sold for approximately $1.40 a pack.

"This report demonstrates that the tobacco industry is as resourceful, and as predatory, as ever," Thomas Glynn, director of international cancer control at the American Cancer Society, told USA Today. "It also provides us with some insight into the tobacco industry's future plans. When manufactured cigarettes may, at some point in the future, no longer be their primary source of income, they will look to other ways – such as cigars, roll-your-own, various forms of smokeless tobacco – of maintaining their customer's nicotine dependence."

The researchers find the little cigars worrisome, as they are available in a number of flavors, like grape and chocolate, which can be appealing to children and teens.

"They look like cigarettes," commented Michael Tynan, co-author of the CDC report, in the USA Today article. "They smoke like cigarettes. They taste better than a cigarette, because they have flavors. They are cheaper than cigarettes, because of the tax issues. But they are just as deadly. They contain the same toxic chemicals."

Studies have also found that new smokers consist of many young people and almost all smokers start the habit before they are 20 years of age.

“The rise in cigar smoking, which other studies show is a growing problem among youth and young adults, is cause for alarm,” noted Tim McAfee, director of CDC´s Office on Smoking and Health, in a prepared statement.  “The Surgeon General´s Report released this past March shows that getting young people to either quit smoking or never start smoking is the key to ending the tobacco epidemic, because 99 percent of all smokers start before they´re 26 years old.”

According to the CDC, tobacco use can lead to heart disease, various forms of cancer, lung disease, and other chronic health conditions. In terms of health care costs, cigarette use has led to $193 billion in costs annually.