Cigars

A cigar is defined as a roll of tobacco wrapped in leaf tobacco or in a substance that contains tobacco.1,2

Cigars differ from cigarettes in that cigarettes are a roll of tobacco wrapped in paper or in a substance that does not contain tobacco.

The three major types of cigars sold in the United States are large cigars, cigarillos, and little cigars.1,2

In 2021, cigars were the third most commonly used tobacco product among U.S. middle and high school students.3 The availability of flavors in cigars that are prohibited in cigarettes (such as cherry), and the fact that they are commonly sold as a single stick, has raised concerns that these products may be especially appealing to youth.4,5,6,7

In 2021, among middle and high school students who used cigars in the past 30 days, 44.4% reported using a flavored cigar during that time.3

Little cigars are the same size and shape as cigarettes, often include a filter, and are packaged in a similar way, but they are taxed differently than cigarettes. Rather than reduce consumption, people who smoke and are cost-conscious might switch from cigarettes to cheaper little cigars.2,6,8

Historically, cigar smoking in the United States has been a behavior of older men, but the industry’s increased marketing of these products to targeted groups increased the prevalence of use among adolescents.4

Cigar use is higher among youth who use other tobacco products or other drugs (e.g., alcohol, marijuana, and inhalants) than among youth who do not use these products.4

Cigars contain the same toxic and carcinogenic compounds found in cigarettes and are not a safe alternative to cigarettes.1,5

Description and Unit Sale Share of Cigar Types
Type Description Share of Unit Sales (2016-2020)*9
*Percentage of U.S. market for cigar products.
Large cigar Cigar that typically contains at least one-half ounce of aged, fermented tobacco (i.e., as much as a pack of cigarettes) and usually takes 1 to 2 hours to smoke

2.7%

Cigarillo A short (3–4 inches) and narrow cigar that typically contains about 3 grams of tobacco and usually does not include a filter

94.2%

Little cigar A small cigar that typically is about the same size as a cigarette and usually includes a filter

3.1%

Health Effects

  • Regularly smoking cigars is associated with an increased risk for cancers of the lung, esophagus, larynx (voice box), and oral cavity (lip, tongue, mouth, throat).1,2
  • Cigar smoking is linked to gum disease and tooth loss.2
  • Heavy cigar smoking and inhaling cigar smoke deeply may increase risk for developing coronary heart disease.1,2
  • Heavy cigar smoking increases the risk for lung diseases, such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis.1,2

Current Cigar Use

Adults*

Percentage of U.S. adults who currently smoked cigars in 2020:10

  • 3.5% of all adults
  • 6.3% of adult males
  • 0.8% of adult females
  • 4.6% of non-Hispanic Black adults
  • 3.8% of non-Hispanic White adults
  • 2.2% of Hispanic adults
  • 0.9% of non-Hispanic Asian adults

High School Students

Percentage of U.S. high school students who currently smoked cigars in 2021:3

  • 2.1% of all students in grades 9–12
  • 1.5% of female students in grades 9–12
  • 2.6% of male students in grades 9–12

Middle School Students

Percentage of U.S. middle school students who currently smoked cigars in 2021:3

  • 0.6% of all U.S. students in grades 6–8
  • 0.5% of female students in grades 6–8
  • 0.6% of male students in grades 6–8

Overall

  • In 2020, an estimated 8.6 million adults aged 18 and older (3.5%) currently smoked cigars.10

*Adults are defined as persons 18 years of age or older.
Current cigar use is defined as smoking cigars on 1 or more of the 30 days before participation in a survey about this topic.

Marketing Information

Marketing efforts promote cigars as symbols of a luxurious and successful lifestyle. The following strategies can contribute to the increased acceptability of cigar smoking:1,4

  • Endorsements by male and female celebrities
  • Development of cigar-focused magazines (e.g., Cigar Aficionado)
  • Product placement in movies

In 2001, the Federal Trade Commission mandated that cigar packaging and advertisements display one of the following five “SURGEON GENERAL WARNING” text-only labels on a rotating basis:12

  • Cigar Smoking Can Cause Cancers Of The Mouth And Throat, Even If You Do Not Inhale.
  • Cigar Smoking Can Cause Lung Cancer And Heart Disease.
  • Tobacco Use Increases The Risk Of Infertility, Stillbirth, And Low Birth Weight.
  • Cigars Are Not A Safe Alternative To Cigarettes.
  • Tobacco Smoke Increases The Risk Of Lung Cancer And Heart Disease, Even In Nonsmokers.
    1. National Cancer Institute. Cigars: Health Effects and Trends. Smoking and Tobacco Control Monograph No. 9external icon. Smoking and Tobacco Control Monograph No. 9. Bethesda (MD): National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute, 1998 [accessed 2015 Oct 19].
    2. American Cancer Society. Cigar Smoking. Atlanta: American Cancer Society [cited 2015 Oct 19].
    3. Gentzke AS, Wang TW, Cornelius M, Park-Lee E, Ren C, Sawdey MD, Cullen KA, Loretan C, Jamal A, Homa DM. Tobacco Product Use and Associated Factors Among Middle and High School Students – National Youth Tobacco Survey, United States, 2021. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 2022; 71(No. SS-5):1–29.
    4. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Office on Smoking and Health, 2012 [accessed 2015 Oct 19].
    5. Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. The Rise of Cigars and Cigar-Smoking Harmspdf iconexternal icon. Washington: Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids [accessed 2015 Oct 19].
    6. King BA, Tynan MA, Dube SR, Arrazola R. Flavored-Little-Cigar and Flavored-Cigarette Use Among U.S. Middle and High School Studentsexternal icon. Journal of Adolescent Health 2013;54(1):40–6 [accessed 2015 Oct 19].
    7. Cullen KA, Liu ST, Bernat JK, et al. Flavored Tobacco Product Use Among Middle and High School Students—United States, 2014–2018. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 2019;68:839–44 [accessed 2019 Nov 26].
    8. Gammon DG, Loomis BR, Dench DL, King BA, Fulmer EB, Rogers T. Effect of Price Changes in Little Cigars and Cigarettes on Little Cigar Sales; USA, Q4 2011-Q4 2013nexternal icon. Tobacco Control 2016;25:538-44 [cited 2018 Sep 13].
    9. Wang X, Kim Y, Borowiecki M, Tynan MA, Emery S, King BA. Trends in Cigar Sales and Prices, by Product and Flavor Type – United States, 2016-2020external icon. Nicotine & Tobacco Research 2021 [accessed 2021 Nov 23].
    10. Cornelius ME, Loretan CG, Wang TW, Jamal A, Homa DM. Tobacco Product Use Among Adults — United States, 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2022; 71:397–405.
    11. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Section 2 PE Tables – Results from the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables, SAMHSA, CBHSQexternal icon. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, 2020 [accessed 2021 Nov 23].
    12. Federal Trade Commission. Nationwide Labeling Rules for Cigar Packaging and Ads Take Effect Todayexternal icon. Washington: Federal Trade Commission, 2001 [accessed 2015 Oct 19].