Packaging Characteristics of Top-Selling Cigars in the United States, 2018

Nicotine Tob Res. 2022 Oct 17;24(10):1678-1683. doi: 10.1093/ntr/ntac070.


Introduction: Tobacco product packaging is an influential industry marketing tool, but research on cigar packaging characteristics is limited. This study leveraged a pack archive of the top-selling, mass-market cigar products in the US and their corresponding sales data to assess the prevalence of common pack features in the marketplace.

Methods: The 50 cigar products with the highest national unit sales in 2018 were identified using Nielsen's Scantrack data. A content analysis captured common packaging features within four domains: physical, textual, graphical, and promotional elements. Descriptive statistics, weighted by each pack's 2018 unit sales, documented the market share of pack characteristics overall and by brand.

Results: Products in the sample constituted 62% of all convenience store cigar sales in 2018. Black & Mild, the most popular brand, did not display warning labels on its single stick, cellophane-wrapped products, which constituted nearly all of its sales (96.3%). Resealable foil pouches were the most common packaging style across other brands, and were most often sold in predominantly red, green, or silver packaging. Common flavor categories included concept (eg, "Jazz", 32.4%), fruit (15.7%), and sweet (14.5%). Prepricing (eg, "2 for 99 cents") was a popular promotional strategy, appearing on 74% of all packs sold.

Conclusions: Cigar packaging features such as small pack sizes, innovative materials, flavor names, bright colors, and cost-saving promotions are prevalent among the top-selling products. Stronger packaging-focused policies at the federal and local levels may help reduce appeal and potentially curb cigar use.

Implications: Sales of mass-market cigars in the US have remained strong over the past decade, propelled by lax product regulations. This study demonstrated that cigar packaging features that may enhance consumer appeal, such as small pack sizes, flavor names, sensory descriptors, bright colors, and cost-saving promotions, are prevalent among the top-selling products. Stronger packaging-focused policies at the federal and local levels may help curb cigar use, reduce youth appeal, and potentially minimize existing disparities in cigar use.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Cellophane*
  • Commerce
  • Humans
  • Marketing
  • Product Packaging
  • Tobacco Products*
  • United States


  • Cellophane