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We are pleased to bring you the 14th edition of Fast Facts. This is a brief report on
local data that we believe you will find useful in both understanding and improving the
health of our community. Our goal is to keep it brief and instructive and to provide
opportunities for all persons to positively impact the issue. Please feel free to forward to colleagues, board members and others in the community.


Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death and disease and every year more than 9,700 adult Hoosiers die from their own smoking.[i] In addition, 194,000 Hoosiers are living with a tobacco-related illness or chronic disease. Furthermore, lung cancer kills 4,000 Hoosiers every year. If all smoking ceased, the occurrence of lung cancer would decrease by an estimated 90 percent. But you know all of this. This month we want to address a more hidden issue that you may not be aware of -- but likely your children are -- Brown cigarettes or little cigars.

Brown cigarettes are identical in size to traditional cigarettes but are wrapped in brown paper that contains some tobacco leaf. They also are sold in a variety of flavors and in packs of 20.


Special thanks to Miranda Spitznagle with the Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Commission at the Indiana State Department of Health and Jill Leal with Tobacco Free Allen County for their assistance in compiling this report.

Brown Cigarettes


A cigar is a roll of fermented tobacco wrapped either in tobacco leaf or paper that contains tobacco or tobacco extract.  Most adults think of large cigars when they hear this term.  Today's cigar is not your grandfather's cigar and  today's cigar smoker is not your grandfather - or even your father. Teens and young adults are much more likely than adults 25 years and older to report smoking cigars. Large cigars are usually 7 inches in length or longer and typically contain between 5 and 20 grams of tobacco and can take between 1 and 2 hours to smoke.  Small cigars are simply tobacco wrapped in dried tobacco leaf or in any substance containing tobacco.  They are shorter, narrower and contain about 3 grams of tobacco (as opposed to cigarettes that contain 1 gram of tobacco) and may or may not have a filter tip.  This is important because federal and state laws distinguish between cigarettes and cigars based on the composition of the wrapper and the weight of the product, while the distinction between small and large cigars is determined by weight.




To circumvent the the Food and Drug Administration's ban on fruit- and candy-flavored cigarettes that appealed to kids, some cigarette makers have added tobacco to the wrapper and weight to their products so they meet the definition of small or large cigars, despite still being sold in packs of 20 like cigarettes. These products come in various flavors including wild berry, "pinkberry," and lemonade.  Unfortunately, they can often be purchased individually for less than $1 or in packs.[i]  In addition to avoiding the ban on flavorings, these manipulated cigarettes have also escaped other FDA regulations, including a ban on deceptive terms like "light" and "low-tar" and a requirement that cigarettes be kept behind the counter and out of reach of kids.  All of which makes them attractive, affordable and easily accessible by young people.  According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while 5.4 percent of adults in the United States were current cigar users, 12.6 percent of all students in grades 9 through 12 were current users in 2012.[ii] Furthermore, during 2011-2012, cigar use increased significantly among Non-Hispanic Black high school students to 16.7 percent.


What many people do not realize is that smoking brown cigarettes poses the same serious health risks as regular cigarettes, as brown cigarettes can cause cancer of the lungs, mouth, larynx, and esophagus.  They also pose the same health threat of secondhand smoke exposure as traditional tobacco products. Because they are classified as a cigar, they are not taxed at the same rate as cigarettes, making them more affordable than cigarettes.  Cigarette consumption declined 33 percent from 2000 to 2011, however use of other kinds of tobacco grew by 123 percent.[iii]




Tobacco use costs the government and taxpayers millions in medical expenses every year. Smoking-related health care expenses in Indiana total approximately $2.08 billion. The state Medicaid fund paid $521 million of those costs during 2004.

What You Can Do


 As a health care provider:  

  • Educate young patients and their parents on the risks of brown cigars/cigarettes 
  • Ask young patients about usage
  • If your young patient has a tobacco addiction, refer them to a certified Youth Quit Coach at the Indiana Tobacco Quitline, 1-800 QUIT NOW.  The Quitline is a free service for all Hoosier youth ages 13-17 and for adults.

As a parent:

  • Talk to your kids about brown cigarettes and explain the risk
  • Call the Indiana Tobacco Quitline, 1-800 QUIT NOW, for guidance on helping your teen quit tobacco

 As a funder or public official:     

  • Raising cigarette taxes and creating smoke-free zones have been shown to be among the most effective ways to prevent kids and adults from starting to smoke, as well as encouraging them to quit 
  • Increasing the tax rates of all cigars to the same rate as the excise tax on cigarettes would reduce the use of lower-taxed tobacco products. At the very least, there should be a minimum tax rate for all cigars that is equal to the cigarette tax rate, to ensure that all cigars are adequately taxed and that cigarettes cannot masquerade as cigars to escape taxation.
  • Restrict sales of cigar products with flavors that appeal to youth; require that cigar products be placed behind the counter (and prohibit self-service displays) like cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products.


Tobacco Cessation and Counseling:

Fast Facts is a collaboration of the Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health and
United Way of Allen County 2-1-1
  Contact Deborah McMahan, MD or John Silcox
 c/o Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health