By February 8, 2019 0 Comments Read More →

Little Cigar and Cigarillo Sales on the Rise, New Regulation is Needed

A recent study reveals that over the last decade, as cigarette sales continue to decline, cigar sales have nearly doubled.

Most concerning is 91% of the cigar market is dominated by little cigars and cigarillos (LCCs), many of which are flavored, using the same chemicals found in candy. The availability of LCCs is rising as many internet tobacco vendors (ITVs) offer these products as a replacement to flavored cigarettes, which were banned through the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (2009).

To date there has been no systematic investigation into online LCC sales and marketing practices. To obtain a better understanding of sales methods and to properly inform potential future regulations, the study team manually screened more than 32,000 sites in 2013 and more than 31,000 sites in 2014.

The team identified 500 and 511 unique internet LCC vendors (ILVs) in 2013 and 2014 respectively. Of the identified sites, the study team analyzed content from 249 ILVs in 2013 and 263 ILVs in 2014, using web traffic rankings to identify the most visited sites, and focused on six domains: demographics, youth access, payment and delivery, products for sale, promotions and claims, and prices.


Key Findings:

  • Less than half of all ILVs featured any kind of age warning on their home page and only half used age verification strategies that cannot effectively verify age.
  • 10% of ILVs made no attempt to verify age.
  • Nearly all vendors accepted credit cards and there was a significant increase in accepting PayPal.
  • Nearly all vendors shipped to the US and the majority of those used the United States Postal Service (USPS).
  • Of the ILVs analyzed, 70.1% in 2013 and 76.1% in 2014 sold flavored LCCs.

With lax age verification and ease of purchase and delivery, it’s no surprise that LCCs became a replacement for flavored cigarettes. While flavored LCCs are not banned, the FDA does have authority to enact regulations on these products.

This research suggests that flavored LCCs need additional regulations to bring them in line with flavored cigarettes.


Citation: Williams, RS, Derrick, JC. Internet little cigar and cigarillo vendors: Surveillance of sales and marketing practices via website content analysis. Preventive Medicine. 2018;109. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2018.01.017. PMCID: PMC5843555

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