Today, the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine released its report, Premium Cigars: Patterns of Use, Marketing, and Health Effects. Commissioned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health, this 520-page report was drafted by a committee of 13 tobacco control scientists. This report is the first government-sponsored, in-depth examination of premium cigars.
On April 20, 2021, Drew Newman, fourth-generation owner and general counsel of J.C. Newman Cigar Co., was the one cigar maker who testified before the Committee. From the hand rolling room in J.C. Newman’s El Reloj cigar factory in Tampa, Florida, Newman showed how premium cigars are made and answered the Committee’s questions about premium cigar tobacco and the premium cigar industry. In response to today’s report, Newman issued the following statement:
“The National Academies have confirmed what we all know to be true – that premium cigars are distinct from all other tobacco products.
“Today’s report found that children do not smoke premium cigars and that adults enjoy premium cigars in moderation. The report explained that premium cigars are typically not inhaled, largely because the pH level of premium cigar tobacco is much higher than cigarette tobacco. Because of this, the report concluded that health effects of premium cigars are different from cigarettes and mass-market products. Indeed, the chair of the committee stated today that the overall effect of premium cigars is ‘probably modest.’”
“When FDA decided to regulate premium cigars in 2016, it took a one-size-fits-all approach and applied the massive and expensive regulatory scheme developed for cigarettes to all other tobacco products, including premium cigars. Since then, we have been urging policymakers to recognize that premium cigars are different and should be treated differently. The National Academies report agrees and urges the government to create a formal definition of ‘premium cigar’ as a distinct class of products so that they are not grouped together with mass-market products.
“Today’s report will support our continued efforts in Washington to seek regulatory relief for premium cigars. I am very grateful to the National Academies and its committee of scientists for their work.”
Below are four relevant highlights from the report:
Finding 3-5. The majority of premium cigar users are male, white, with higher income and education levels compared to those who smoke cigarillos, little filtered cigars, or cigarettes. Premium cigar users are on average 7–10 years older than those who smoke cigarillos or little filtered cigars. 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. Premium cigar use is also less common among women, non-Hispanic Black people, and people with less than a high school education.
Finding 3-6. The frequency and intensity of smoking is lower for premium cigars compared to other types of cigars and cigarettes. Only about 5 percent of premium cigar users smoke these daily, whereas 22 percent of nonpremium cigar users, 19 percent of cigarillo users, 40 percent of filtered cigar users, and 76 percent of cigarette users smoke those products daily. The median number of cigars or cigarettes smoked per day is about 0.1 for premium cigars, 0.2 for nonpremium cigars, 0.3 for cigarillos, 1.0 for filtered cigars, and 10 for cigarettes.
Conclusion 5-4. There is insufficient evidence to determine if occasional or nondaily exclusive cigar use in general is associated with increased health risks.
Conclusion 5-5. There is strongly suggestive evidence that health consequences of premium cigar smoking overall are likely to be less than those smoking other types of cigars because the majority of premium cigar smokers are nondaily or occasional users and because they are less likely to inhale the smoke.