Black teens are not smoking cigarettes as much as they used to, but they are firing up cigars more frequently, according to data in a recent survey released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

From 2009 to 2011, the rate of cigar smoking among African American high school students increased from 7.1 percent to 11.7 percent, the survey shows. The report also revealed high rates of cigar smoking and smokeless tobacco use among high school boys, with 15.7 percent smoking cigars and 12.9 percent using smokeless tobacco. Among all high school students, rates of cigar smoking and smokeless tobacco use have stayed steady even as cigarette smoking has declined, the survey showed.

These facts are alarming to anti-tobacco advocates.

Danny McGoldrick, vice president for research with the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, said African American and urban teens are being attracted more to the sweet, cheap cigars.

“We are seeing an explosion in the use of the cheap, flavored cigars,” McGoldrick told “Tobacco companies co-op the urban culture with fruit and candy flavored cigars,” he said “The youths can be easily lulled into a lifetime addiction.”

According to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, almost 90 percent of cigarette smokers report that they started using tobacco products by age 18.

“Even though there are laws to prevent the sale of tobacco products to minors, they often find an older friend or sibling who will make their purchases, or they will find that one store in the neighborhood that will sell to minors,” McGoldrick said.

“The sweet, cheap cigars are easier for some to purchase when compared to cigarettes,” he said. “They can buy one or two cigars at a time. But with cigarettes, you have to purchase a full pack.”

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