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Little Cigars: The Preferred Tobacco Product Among Freshmen at an HBCU. Presentation to HWTF Teen Tobacco Use Prevention and Cessation grantees June 17, 2010. Survey Methods.

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Little Cigars: The Preferred Tobacco Product Among Freshmen at an HBCU

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Little cigars the preferred tobacco product among freshmen at an hbcu

Little Cigars: The Preferred Tobacco Product Among Freshmen at an HBCU

Presentation to

HWTF Teen Tobacco Use Prevention and Cessation grantees June 17, 2010

Survey methods

Survey Methods

  • In fall 2003, a paper and pencil, self-administered screening survey on tobacco use was administered to NCCU freshmen in sections of a required introductory course.

  • Survey was part of a one-year cohort study on factors influencing the initiation and entrenchment of smoking among freshmen at an historically Black university.

Screener sample

Screener Sample

684 freshmen (57%) completed screening survey

  • 68% female

  • 96% African American

  • 88% living on campus

  • 99% full-time students

Summary of screener data

Summary of Screener Data

Little cigars vs cigarettes

Though the preference was stronger for males than females, both preferred little cigars to cigarettes.

Little Cigars Vs. Cigarettes

An intro to little cigars lcs

An Intro To Little Cigars (LCs)

  • Also known as cigarillos

  • Much smaller than traditional cigars

  • Big cigars are sometimes hollowed out and filled with marijuana.

  • For some blunts are big tobacco-filled cigars (e.g., Philly Blunts); for others they are marijuana-filled cigars.

  • It gets confusing, but clear distinctions are critical!

An intro to little cigars lcs1

An Intro To Little Cigars (LCs)

  • Nicotine content of LCs is unclear, but most users inhale - to get a buzz.

  • In a social setting one LC is often passed around among friends, much like a joint.

  • 5 per pack; in NC cost about $2.50 pack

  • Singles or loosies sell for $.75



  • A process some smokers engage in to make the LC burn more quickly and “pull easier”

  • Tobacco is completely emptied from the LC, the filter is taken off, a paper (sometimes called the cancer stick) that lines the little cigar is removed, then the tobacco is put back in.

  • Requires time and technique; a ritual for some

Focus groups exploring the use of little cigars

Focus Groups: Exploring the Use of Little Cigars

  • In July 2005, 3 focus groups were conducted with NCCU students who were current or former smokers of little cigars.

  • 21 students participated

  • 16 males, 5 females; all African American

  • Focus groups lasted 60-90 minutes

  • Participants received a $30 gift certificate



  • Current smoking status

  • Brands of LCs smoked

  • Reasons for smoking LCs

  • Social context of smoking

  • Amount smoked

  • Risks relative to cigarettes – addiction and health problems

  • Thoughts about quitting

Smoking status

Smoking Status

  • 20 of 21 currently smoked LCs; one was a former user

  • Only 6 of 21 also smoked cigarettes; one other was a former user

Brands of lcs smoked

Brands of LCs Smoked

  • Black and Milds (aka Blacks) were overwhelmingly the brand of choice.

  • In fact, Blacks were synonymous with little cigars (like Kleenex and Jello).

  • Some had tried other brands (Swisher Sweets, Black Magic) but preferred Blacks.

  • A few smoked flavored Blacks (e.g., vanilla).

Why little cigars over cigarettes

Why Little Cigars Over Cigarettes?

  • Better taste and smell

    • “Black & Milds are smooth. Cigarettes taste like chemicals.”

    • “Cigarettes smell your clothes.”

    • “Girls say [cigarettes] stink.”

  • Better buzz/high

    • “I get more of a buzz with my first cigarette. But when I smoke Black & Milds, I get a buzz every time I pull.”

Why little cigars over cigarettes1

Why Little Cigars Over Cigarettes?

  • It’s part of partying.

    • “It went hand in hand at parties.”

    • “Drinking and Blacks go together.”

  • It’s more social.

    • “Normally people smoke and pass.”

    • “We might share while in the line at the club.”

  • Status

    • “They look cool.”

    • “It’s the fad in fashion.”

Why little cigars over cigarettes2

Why Little Cigars Over Cigarettes?

  • They’re less addictive.

    • “I started smoking blacks in order to stop smoking cigarettes.”

    • “People who smoke cigarettes feign for cigarettes. With blacks if you don’t have one, it’s cool.”

  • They’re less harmful.

    • “They’re not as many toxic gases.”

    • “My grandma died from cigarettes.”

  • You can make them safer by “hyping”

    • “When you remove the cancer paper, it takes out some of the stuff.”

When and where do you smoke

When and Where Do You Smoke?

  • When drinking at the club or a party

  • After a meal (but not on an empty stomach – laxative effect!)

  • When stressed.

    • “I smoke after class, after work, after an argument to mellow out and get my head together. It keeps me calm.”

  • With friends

  • When smoking marijuana.

    • “Now I smoke after weed to get an extra boost.”

How much do you smoke and how do you smoke it

How Much Do You Smoke and How Do You Smoke It?

  • Responses ranged from a pack a day to a pack every 2 weeks.

  • Those who also smoked cigarettes smoked more cigarettes than LCs.

    • “A pack [of LCs] lasts me 2 weeks, but I smoke cigarettes every day for stress.”

    • “I might smoke a pack of Blacks in a week and 3 packs of cigarettes the next week.”

How much do you smoke and how do you smoke it1

How Much Do You Smoke and How Do You Smoke It?

  • But many people don’t smoke a whole LC at one time.

    • “It is hard to smoke a whole black. When I smoke, I have 3 sessions with one Black.”

    • “I smoke, then put it out, then smoke the rest later.”

    • “I can’t smoke a whole Black. You have to share.”

  • Most people share.

    • “Collectively we might smoke 5 to 6 Blacks in a day.”

    • “Everyone wants to hit Blacks.”

    • “No one is stingy with Blacks.”

Beliefs about addiction

Beliefs About Addiction

  • There was widespread belief that LCs are not as addictive as cigarettes.

    • “You can shake the habit of Blacks, but you can’t do that with cigarettes.”

    • “People do not smoke cigarettes for leisure. Black & Milds are smoked for leisure.”

    • “Smoking Blacks you don’t feel as addicted.”

  • A minority disagreed.

    • “I don’t understand, it’s all tobacco.”

    • “It’s the same. It’s a different gun but the same bullet.”

Beliefs about health risks

Beliefs About Health Risks

  • Some believed LCs are less harmful than cigarettes - for various reasons.

    • “I don’t think it’s as bad because people do not smoke Black & Milds as much.”

    • “Cigarettes have more chemicals.”

    • “When you smoke a cigarette, the paper turns brown. But when you smoke a Black & Mild, there is no color change. So it is not as harmful.”

  • Some believed the risks were equivalent.

    • “It’s the same thing – tobacco is tobacco.”

    • “With Blacks you might get the same diseases as cigarette smokers, but it will happen at a slower rate.”

Beliefs about health risks1

Beliefs About Health Risks

  • Some believed LCs are more harmful than cigarettes – for various reasons.

    • “It is worse. I heard one Black & Mild equals 10 cigarettes.

    • “Well, if we’re taking the filter out, it has to be worse. But it is still all smoke. The paper acts like a filter, right?”

    • “The paper makes Blacks more dangerous.”

Beliefs about health risks2

Beliefs About Health Risks

  • A number seemed genuinely confused and interested in learning more.

    • “My brother said that the cancer stick was a filter. But I thought it made the Black worse.”

    • “I believe [Blacks are worse] but I hope to find out more.”

    • “What is in the paper that they make Blacks out of?”

    • “Coming here makes me want to research more tonight. I thought it had fewer chemicals.”

Implications for tobacco prevention and cessation programs

Implications for Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Programs

  • Address the use of little cigars.

  • Make clear distinctions

    • little cigars vs. big cigars vs. blunts

    • smoking tobacco vs. smoking marijuana

  • Many students want the truth about LCs. Give them straight information.

  • Debunk the myths that:

    • It’s not addictive.

    • It’s a healthier alternative to cigarettes.

    • Hyping reduces the risk.

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