Cigarillos, also known as “little cigars,” are the smallest type of cigars and can have added flavors to appease a wide range of consumers. Cigarillos have been gaining popularity in Canada, which is concerning as they contain toxicants that are comparable to those found in cigarettes. Hence, cigarillos have been associated with a variety of cancers including lung, esophageal, and oral cavity cancers.
What is more concerning is that it appears that the younger population of smokers are under the impression that cigarillo smoking is less harmful than cigarettes. This view can be easily discredited by looking at some of the research published around the harmful effects of cigarillo smoking, which at times has indicated that cigarillo smoking can be more harmful than cigarette smoking.
To our knowledge, the consumer characteristics associated with cigarillo are not well known in Canada. Our group addressed this issue by studying the factors associated with “current” and “ever” cigarillo smoking in Canada (Atiya et al. 2018). To assess these factors, we used responses from the Canadian Tobacco Use Monitoring Survey (CTUMS), which was an annual national-scale survey by Statistics Canada, investigating tobacco habits and was conducted in all Canadian provinces. We used logistic regression models to analyze our results.
Our study found that 38% of the Canadian population reported ever smoking cigarillos, and 3% reported being current cigarillo smokers in 2012. In addition, our study found that “ever” and “current” cigarillo smoking was associated with several factors including male gender, younger age, being a current or former cigarette smoker, and marijuana use.
In more detail, about 53% of Canadian males reported ever using cigarillos compared to 24% of females. Similarly, 5% of Canadian males reported being current cigarillo smokers compared to only 1% of females. In addition, 44-46% of Canadians aged 18-34 reported being ever cigarillo smokers compared to 38% of Canadians aged 45 years or more. Moreover, 3-8% of Canadians aged <18-44 years reported being ever smokers compared to 1% of Canadians aged 45 years or more. This is perhaps the most concerning finding of this study, which highlights the importance of correcting public perception about cigarillos, especially among the younger generations. Looking at the 10 provinces of Canada, our study showed that Saskatchewan had the highest prevalence of “ever” (44%) and “current” (4%) cigarillo smoking. On the other hand, Prince Edward Island had the lowest prevalence of “ever” (36%) and “current” (2%) cigarillo smoking.
Other interesting socio-demographic factors that we found to be associated with cigarillo smoking in our study included speaking English or French at home, which can be due to the fact that immigrants may come from areas were other forms of smoking are more popular and, therefore, may not be aware of or exposed to cigarillos. Another interesting factor that was found to be associated with cigarillo smoking in our study was living in rural areas of Canada which may be explained by longer burn times of cigarillos that may make them less convenient in an urban setting, where time and space constraints are of significance.
Having other smoking habits was found to greatly impact the likelihood of cigarillo smoking in Canada. Our results show that Canadians who reported being a current or former cigarette smoker were 3 times more likely to report ever smoking cigarillos than those who have never smoked cigarettes. Similarly, current cigarette smokers were 3 times more likely to be current cigarillo smokers compared those who have never smoked cigarettes.
Along the same lines, Canadians who have ever used Marijuana reported were 6 times more likely to report ever smoking cigarillos compared to those who have never used Marijuana. Likewise, Marijuana users were 2 times more likely to report being current cigarillo smokers compared to non-users. The relationship observed between cigarillo smoking and marijuana use is an interesting one that can be explained by the fact that marijuana can be consumed through different vessels including water pipes and joints, which means that consuming marijuana and tobacco may trigger each other simply due to the convenience of having similar vessels.
Our study provided important information that can be used to better target smoking interventional efforts. This can be done by catering government smoking prevention programs to certain demographics, such as age, gender, and past or coexisting smoking habits. In addition, these efforts may be divided by type of smoking to provide more focused interventions.
These findings are described in the article entitled Prevalence and characteristics of cigarillo smoking in Canada: results from the Canadian Tobacco Use Monitoring Survey, recently published in the journal Public Health.
- Atiya, A., P. Abdullah, L. Ali-Hassan, and H. Tamim. 2018. “Prevalence and Characteristics of Cigarillo Smoking in Canada: Results from the Canadian Tobacco Use Monitoring Survey.” Public Health 165:42–47. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30368167).