National and state patterns of concept-flavoured cigar sales, USA, 2012-2016

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Abstract

Introduction

Cigar sales have increased in the USA in recent years. A growing proportion of cigar sales are of flavoured varieties, many bearing ambiguous or ‘concept' flavour descriptions (eg, Jazz). This study assessed US cigar sales by flavour category (ie, concept flavoured, characterising flavoured and tobacco), at national, regional and state levels.

Methods

Sales of cigarillos, large cigars and little cigars from chain, franchise and convenience stores, mass merchandisers, supermarkets, drug, dollar and club stores, and military commissaries during 2012-2016 were acquired from the Nielsen Company. US national-level and state-level sales, including District of Columbia, were analysed by flavour category. Flavour descriptors were classified as ‘tobacco’, ‘characterising' or ‘concept’, based on Universal Product Code (UPC)-linked characteristics and brand website and consumer review descriptions.

Results

Cigar sales increased by 29% during 2012-2016, driven by a 78% increase in cigarillo sales. The proportion of concept-flavoured sales increased from 9% to 15%, while the proportion of sales decreased for tobacco (50% to 49%) and characterising flavours (eg, cherry) (41% to 36%). Cigarillos had the greatest increase in unique concept flavour descriptions (17 to 46 unique UPCs), with most sales occurring among Sweet, Jazz and Green Sweets concept flavours. By US region, total and concept-flavoured cigarillo sales were highest in the South.

Conclusions

Flavoured cigars are increasingly labelled with concept flavours, including in areas with flavoured tobacco sales restrictions. Cigarillos are driving recent increases in US cigar and concept-flavoured cigar sales. It is important to consider concept flavours when addressing flavoured tobacco product sales and use.

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