Tobacco Companies Say Kids Shouldn’t Smoke — So What’s With Fruit-Flavored Cigars?

Tobacco companies have insisted in the past that they don’t think kids should smoke and aren’t marketing to them, but we can’t imagine as many adults go for fruity- or candy-flavored cigars as the younger set. Those are just as bad for your health as cigarettes, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and middle and high school kids just love’em.

Since 2009 flavored cigarettes (besides menthol) have been banned in the U.S. reports the Associated Press, but only four states have restrictions on the sales of little cigars that taste of candy, fruit or cloves.

Those hit the spot for about 1 in 30 middle and high school kids who said they smoke the compact, sweet cigars, reports the CDC in a new report based on a survey of 19,000 students. That number only goes up as kids age, with 1 in 12 high school seniors partaking.

It doesn’t seem to matter much that anyone under 18 isn’t legally allowed to buy cigarettes and cigars, which anyone who went to high school and had an older friend can attest to — if you can smoke’em, you can get’em.

But it’s this sweet flavoring that especially worries health experts, who say that because the sweetness can mask the harsh taste of tobacco it makes smoking a more pleasing experience for kids and teens.

“The so-called small cigars look like cigarettes, addict as much as cigarettes and they kill like cigarettes,” said CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden.

He and others point out that although tobacco companies say they discourage smoking by anyone underage, marketing flavored cigars would appear to be a kind of hook to get kids interested in the practice. So if they’re really dedicated to keeping kids away from smoking until they’re 18, well, flavored cigars aren’t going to help that effort.

Flavored cigars popular with teens [Associated Press]