WASHINGTONWhats good for regulating cigarettes is equally
good for cigars, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) argued in a new
report to Congress. It recommended that Congress require health
warning labels for cigars, ban all cigar advertising on radio and
television, and enact measures to restrict the access of underage
smokers to cigars.
Commission members approved the report in a 4 to 0 vote. The FTC has
the authority to require warning labels on cigars, but it chose to
forward its recommendations to Capitol Hill to give Congress an
opportunity to act before it imposed any regulations.
In the report, the FTC noted that after a 20-year decline, cigar
sales began rising again in 1993. The surge in sales coincided with
an increase in cigar advertising and promotions, and was fueled by a
significant increase in cigar smoking among young adult men. The
dramatic upswing in US cigar consumption since 1993 and the
increasing evidence of the health threats posed by cigars prompted
the agency to make its recommendations.
Cigar Advertising Triples in one Year
From cigar tastings to paying Hollywood for showing cigar smokers
The five cigar companies included in the FTC data nearly tripled
Promotional costs accounted for about 40% of the total in both years
Expenditures for public entertainment events, such as cigar
The companies online advertising rose from $78,000 in 1996 to
The five companies that the FTC ordered to provide data were
Data from the 1997 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, conducted
by the federal governments Substance Abuse and Mental Health
Services Administration, showed that 10.5% of men and 1.9% of women
smoked cigars in the month prior to being surveyed.
While there is no data on teen cigar use prior to 1996, several
recently conducted national surveys . . . show that substantial
numbers of adolescents are trying cigars, the report stated.
The FTC cited Department of Agriculture statistics that showed a 57%
increase in cigar sales in the United States, from 3.4 billion cigars
in 1993 to more than 5 billion in 1998. Data obtained from the five
largest cigar makers under an FTC order revealed that their total
sales volume increased 15% from 1996 to 1997, from 3.8 billion to 4.4
billion cigars, and their wholesale revenues rose from $613 million
to $876 million. The most significant sales growth has been in
premium cigars, hand-rolled cigars that sell for more than $1 each,
the report said.
The FTC relied heavily on a 1998 National Cancer Institute report,
generally known as the NCI Cigar Monograph, to make its
argument for the ill effects of cigar smoking. NCI researchers
reported that cigar smoke contains the same toxic carcinogenic
constituents formed in cigarette smoke. People who smoke one or
more cigars daily have a risk of oral and esophageal cancer similar
to cigarette smokers, and an increased risk (but lower than the risk
of cigarette smokers) of lung and laryngeal cancer, coronary heart
disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, the NCI report said.
All the studies evaluated by the NCI used people who smoked one or
more cigars each day. The FTC acknowledged that available data
indicate that most users only smoke cigars occasionally. There
currently is no direct evidence on the form of the dose-response
relationship for occasional cigar smokers, the report said.
Three Warning Labels
The FTC noted that several studies in the United States and Canada
have shown that people are generally aware that cigars pose health
risks but are uncertain about the specific risks. Warnings
highlighting the specific health risks of cigar smoking may further
educate consumers or reinforce their existing beliefs, the
The FTC recommended three separate labels:
WARNING: Regular cigar smoking can cause cancers of the mouth and
throat, even if you do not inhale.
WARNING: Inhaling cigar smoke can cause lung cancer. The more deeply
you inhale, the greater your risk.
WARNING: Cigars are not a safe alternative to cigarettes.
The report urged that cigar manufacturers and marketers be required
to rotate the warnings, as cigarette makers are now required to do.
Multiple warnings can provide a broad range of health risk
information, while also increasing the likelihood that consumers pay
attention to individual messages over an extended period of
time, the FTC said.
According to the Cigar Association of America, 96% of cigars made in
the United States are sold in or from boxes that already carry a
health warning label that is designed to comply with a California
law. However, imported cigars, many of which are premium cigars, are
less likely to have health warnings.
Banning Cigar Ads
The commission also recommended banning the advertising of cigars on
radio and television, including cable channels. It noted that unlike
cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, and cigarette-size cigars, regular
cigars can be advertised over the electronic media. This
disparate treatment of cigars could have the effect of increasing
cigar sales and consumption, the report said.
Reducing Access to Teens
In its third recommendation, the FTC urged federal actions to reduce
access of cigars to young people. As cigarettes and smokeless
tobacco become less readily accessible to underage smokers, it will
be important to restrict youth access to cigars to prevent them from
becoming the tobacco product of choice for minors, the report
said. The commission suggested Congress reduce youth access to cigars
by enacting measures such as restricting the use of self-service
It also acknowledged that cigar manufacturers, because of their
relatively small size, might be unable to compete with cigarette
companies for shelf space. It urged that any legislation provide
flexibility for alternative cigar shelving arrangements and
exempt tobacco specialty stores, provided they take reasonable
steps to restrict unaccompanied access by minors.