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Tobacco companies profit from loophole, market small cigars

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Small cigars protoed by big tobaccoAfter decades of progress toward their goal of preventing smoking-related illness and death, public health officials said Thursday that they're seeing a worrisome new trend: Smokers who switch from high-priced cigarettes to cheaper, but equally dangerous, small cigars.

While cigarette consumption declined 33% from 2000 to 2011, use of other kinds of tobacco grew by 123%, as smokers sought lower-cost alternatives to cigarettes, whose prices have risen sharply as a growing number of states raise taxes on them, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And overall declines in smoked tobacco consumption are grinding to a halt, with less than a 1% decrease in use from 2010 to 2011.

"This report demonstrates that the the tobacco industry is as resourceful, and as predatory, as ever," says Thomas Glynn, director of international cancer control at the American Cancer Society. "It also provides us with some insight into the tobacco industry's future plans. When manufactured cigarettes may, at some point in the future, no longer be their primary source of income, they will look to other ways — such as cigars, roll-your-own, various forms of smokeless tobacco — of maintaining their customer's nicotine dependence."

Tax "loopholes" appear to be driving the shift in smoking habits, says the CDC's Terry Pechacek, the report's co-author.

Due to those loopholes, "little cigars" that look nearly identical to cigarettes, except for their brown color, are taxed at much lower rates, so they cost a fraction of what a pack of cigarettes does, Pechacek.

TVNL Comment:  Reminder: 450,000 Americans and 3,000,000 people world wide die of smoking related illnesses.  And yet, the band plays on...

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