Background: Cigars have been heavily promoted in recent years. The nature and extent of the resultant increase in cigar smoking needs to be understood before the public health implications can be assessed.
Methods: Data are from population-based surveys conducted in California adults (> or = 18 years) in 1990 (n = 24,296) and 1996 (n = 24,266). Trends in current (every day or some days) cigar use are described for demographic subgroups and by cigarette smoking status.
Results: Current cigar use has doubled in California, from 2.5% in 1990 to 4.9% in 1996. In 1996, fewer than 5% of cigar smokers smoked cigars daily; essentially all of the increase was from nondaily use in those under 45 years of age of both genders, particularly in 18- to 24-year-olds. Among males, increased cigar use was observed in all racial/ethnic groups except Asians, and was observed in those with higher educational attainment and higher incomes. In both years, current and former cigarette smokers had higher rates of cigar use than never smokers, but the increase in current cigar smoking was observed regardless of cigarette smoking status. In 1996, daily cigar smokers were more likely to be former cigarette smokers than nondaily cigar smokers.
Conclusion: If more people begin to smoke cigars daily, or if cigar use leads young people to initiate cigarette smoking or leads former cigarette smokers to relapse to cigarette smoking, the recent trends in cigar use may have public health implications.