REFERENCE: Reimann, J.O.F., Liles, S., Rodríguez-Reimann, D.I., & Hovell, M.F. The new popularity of cigars: Smokers' descriptions. Poster presentation at the Annual Investigators Meeting of the Tobacco Related Disease Research Program, Los Angeles, CA, December, 10, 1998.
A 25-year decline in cigar consumption sharply reversed in 1991. This trend is problematic because medical research has linked cigar use to several serious health risks including laryngeal, oral, and esophageal cancer. The increasing popularity of cigars is evident in numerous arenas. A growing number of social events, magazines, internet sites, and clubs focus on cigars. Many popular writers associate cigar smoking with affluence and sex appeal. Yet there is limited scientific information on specific public perceptions and beliefs contributing to cigar use.
As part of a multifaceted research effort, the present qualitative study consisted of exploratory focus groups designed to pinpoint demographic and perceptual factors, beyond or instead of those identified through existing sources, which appear important in assessing cigar use patterns. Thirty-six adult cigar smokers attended a set of focus groups addressing topics such as where participants smoke most frequently, what attracted them to cigars, perceptions around health risks, the impact of media messages, peer and family influences, and the social status/processes associated with cigars.
In part, results suggest that peers, especially older siblings, strongly influence initial and continued cigar use among younger (18-24 year old) smokers. A majority of smokers reported they seldom smoke alone and see cigar use as a "social lubricant" allowing them to meet others more easily. In addition, a majority reported that cigar use gives them a strong image of success and sophistication. Most participants also said that the positive media portrayals of cigar use influence them, even though roughly half believed that some celebrities portrayed in cigar magazines do not actually smoke. Older, long-term cigar smokers tended to attribute less influence to social and media cues and were more likely to report smoking alone.
A majority of respondents, particularly in the younger age groups, said they believe cigars to be a safe, non-addictive alternative to cigarettes because they do not inhale and tend to smoke on special occasions rather than on a daily basis. They cited cigar-smoking celebrities known for their physical fitness or longevity as evidence that cigar use is not harmful. A majority of focus group participants did, however, acknowledge they lacked clear and substantial information on cigar-related health risks and said such information should be more accessible.