The use and marketing of sweet and fruit flavors in little cigars and cigarillos is an attractive lure to entice young adults to try and use the products, according to a new study by researchers at Georgia State University’s School of Public Health.
Dr. Kymberle L. Sterling, associate professor of Health Promotion and Behavior, was the lead author of the study, “Appeal and Impact of Characterizing Flavors on Young Adult Small Cigar Use,” being published in the inaugural issue of the journal Tobacco Regulatory Science.
The research comes as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers whether to bring little cigars and cigarillos (LCC) under its authority, along with traditional cigarettes. Currently, menthol is the only flavor that the FDA allows to be used in cigarettes.
Little cigars and cigarillos have similar amounts of nicotine and toxins as traditional cigarettes, and the authors note that the same chemicals used to flavor Kool Aid drink mix and Jolly Ranchers candies are used in the novel tobacco products. Study participants said the flavors made little cigars and cigarettes smoother and more pleasant to smoke, boosted their mood, and some reported switching from regular cigarettes to the flavored products.
“Our findings suggest that the use of fruit and sweet flavors in LCCs is a tried and true tactic that the cigar industries are using to lure young adult smokers, particularly women and minorities, to initiate LCC smoking,” the authors wrote.
The study involved 90 self-identified users of little cigars, cigarillos and traditional cigarettes with an average age of 25 who took part in focus groups and semi-structured interviews. The research included discussion of packaging and how imagery added to the appeal of trying new flavors. As one participant commented, “I think the Tropical Fusion cause it’s like escape to the islands with tropical — oh escape to the island!”
Researchers also noted that the wide range of flavors – well over 100 – also appears to encourage continued experimenting and exploration by young users who often share and discuss new flavors with friends.
The research was supported by the National Cancer Institute and the FDA Center for Tobacco Products.
The other co-authors are Dr. Craig S. Fryer of the University of Maryland College Park; Ms. Meghan Nix, project coordinator at the Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science at the School of Public Health at Georgia State; and Dr. Pebbles Fegan of the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
To learn more about Dr. Sterling’s work, go to: http://publichealth.gsu.edu/profile/kymberle-sterling/