The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) released a report yesterday entitled Premium Cigars: Patterns of Use, Marketing and Health Effects. The study was commissioned by the Food and Drug Administration, which has regulatory authority over the premium cigar industry, and the National Institutes of Health. It’s the first major-government-funded report that deals specifically with the scientific study of premium, handmade cigars, and was conducted by a panel of 13 scientists, chaired by Steven Teutsch.
The findings indicate that the risks associated with other tobacco products are different from those tied to handmade cigars, underscoring the need for a separate premium category. Furthermore, NASEM believes that more data is necessary to better assess the smoking habits of premium cigar customers and the possible risks.
“The National Academies have confirmed what we all know to be true—that premium cigars are distinct from all other tobacco products,” said Tampa, Florida’s J.C. Newman Cigar Co. in an official response to NASEM’s findings.
Below are the report’s most salient points. It states:
- The health risks of handmade cigar smoking are likely less than those smoking other types of cigars because most premium cigar smokers are non-daily or occasional smokers and less apt to inhale the smoke.
- Only one percent of the adult population smokes premium cigars, and very few youths smoke them. “Premium cigar use is less common among youth, and only 0.6 percent of those who reported smoking a premium cigar brand in the past 30 days were under the age of 18,” the study reported.
- Because such a small portion of the population smokes premium cigars, NASEM has deemed the aggregate health effects in the population to be “modest.”
- Premium cigar smokers tend to smoke less frequently when compared to those who smoke cigarettes, cigarillos and non-premium cigars.
- From a chemical composition standpoint, the panel finds that cigar tobacco, including premium cigar tobacco, is no safer than cigarette tobacco, with high levels of tar and nicotine.
- The health risks of premium cigars are most likely proportional to patterns and duration of use, ie. how often one smokes and whether or not they inhale.
- There is still insufficient data as to the health risks of occasional or non-daily premium cigar use.
- The FDA needs to establish a clear definition for premium cigars for more effective research purposes.
- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services should monitor smoking patterns, product characteristics and frequency of cigar use to better understand the premium cigar category.
- Though NASEM pointed out that premium cigars are marketed in lifestyle magazines, online and through social media, there was no evidence to definitively say that the marketing targets children.
It should be noted that the general lack of data regarding handmade cigars sometimes caused NASEM to rely on information based on non-premium, large cigars. The report states: “Published data on premium cigars specifically is lacking in many areas; in those cases, the committee relied on studies of large cigars when possible, on the 1998 NCI monograph on cigars (which, as noted in Chapter 1, is the only comprehensive review of all cigar types), and on committee expertise when extrapolating results and implications to premium cigars.”
Also of note, the measurements and analysis of toxic constituents were largely conducted with unlit premium cigar tobacco, and not with the smoke it produces.
“It is difficult to quantify constituents of cigar smoke because of the lack of standardization of measurement conditions,” the report says. “This is particularly true for large cigars, including premium cigars…The varying sizes and shapes of cigars, as well as their sometimes uneven combustion properties, makes smoke measurements challenging. However, these challenges do not exist for the uncombusted tobacco; well-standardized procedures exist for tobacco analysis…Thus, highly reliable analytical data on constituents of cigar tobacco are available.”
According to the Premium Cigar Association of America, the PCA was in regular contact with NASEM as these issues were under review.
“While the report was clear that all tobacco products contain addictive nicotine and harmful constituents, the review concluded that the health effects differ based on the depth of inhalation and frequency of use attributed to individual cigar use,” the PCA said in a statement.
For NASEM’s part, Teutsch said that the aim of the report was to “provide FDA with the best available scientific information and to identify priorities for federally funded research on premium cigars.” If implemented, NASEM’s recommendations will be used to inform FDA’s policy and regulatory decisions.
To read the full report go to www.nationalacademies.org/premium-cigars-study