People in the U.S. are smoking more cigars and pipe tobacco even as cigarette use declines, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found.
Pipe tobacco smoking increased more than fivefold and cigar use more than tripled from 2000 to 2011, according to findings published today by the CDC in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
Total consumption of all smoked tobacco products declined 27.5 percent during the period while the reduction was only 0.8 percent from 2010 to 2011, the Atlanta-based health agency reported. Cigarette consumption continued its more than decade-long decrease, dropping 2.5 percent from 2010 to 2011.
“We are making less progress,” said Terry Pechacek, the associate director for science in the CDC’s Office of Smoking and Health, in a phone interview today. “The smoke from a burned product is just about as dangerous, no matter what source it comes from.”
The CDC, in its report, and anti-smoking advocates attributed the increase in cigar and pipe smoking to changes in tobacco company practices and federal tax policies that make the products less expensive than cigarettes.
The U.S. raised taxes in 2009 on a carton of cigarettes to $10.07 from $3.90 and raised taxes on an equivalent amount of roll-your-own cigarette tobacco to $10.07 from 45 cents. Pipe tobacco levies rose to $1.15 from 45 cents.
“It’s totally a phenomenon reflecting that companies manipulated their products to avoid taxes,” Danny McGoldrick, research director at the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids in Washington, said today by telephone. “They started mislabeling roll-your-own cigarette tobacco as pipe tobacco and paying the lower tax on it.”
Altria Group Inc., the largest U.S. seller of tobacco, said it didn’t support having more than one level of taxes.
“Altria and its tobacco operating companies believe that little cigars and roll your own tobacco should pay the same tax as cigarettes, as Congress intended,” David Sylvia, a spokesman for Altria, said in an e-mail. “The companies support legislation at both the state and federal level to ensure that taxes on little cigars and roll your own are taxed the same as cigarettes.”
R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. doesn’t market loose or roll-your-own tobacco, or cigars and couldn’t comment, David Howard, a spokesman for the subsidiary of Reynolds American Inc., said in an e-mail.
Gregg Perry, a spokesman for Lorillard Tobacco Co., said he hadn’t read the report and declined to comment. Reynolds and Lorillard, respectively, are the second- and third-biggest U.S. cigarette makers.
Consumers have begun purchasing pipe tobacco and using machines available at many stores to roll hundreds of cigarettes in minutes for a lower cost than they would pay for the pre-rolled product, Michael Tynan, a CDC analyst who was the report’s lead author, said in a phone interview.
Differences in manufacturing and marketing restrictions, which prohibit the use of descriptors “light” or “low tar” for cigarettes, but not for cigars and pipe tobacco may also play a role, the report states.
“We know that a very high proportion of youth are using this form of tobacco,” Pechacek said. Cigars can also be made in many flavors and are inexpensive, making then appealing to young people, he said. “All of our indicators are showing lack of progress” in reducing tobacco consumption among young people, he said.
A law signed in July may limit the price difference between non-cigarette smokable tobacco and cigarettes, the report states.
A provision in the Transportation and Student Loan Interest Rate Bill would require roll-your-own cigarette machine products to be classified as manufacturers and subject to the same taxes as cigarettes face, though that may be blocked by lawsuits, Tynan said.
“This report demonstrates the need to equalize taxes on all tobacco products and for the Food and Drug Administration to regulate all tobacco products,” Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said in a statement.
A U.S. district judge ruled yesterday that R.J. Reynolds and Lorillard can proceed with a lawsuit to block the FDA from using advice from a Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee in making its regulatory decisions because of potential conflicts of interest among the members.