16 Premium Cigar Studies Reviewed

[1] Patterns Of Premium And Nonpremium Cigar Use In The United States: Findings From Wave 6 (2021) Of The Population Assessment Of Tobacco And Health Study 

The study notes that “the traditional cigar category is a heterogeneous group that includes both premium and non-premium large cigars.” So, from the outset, the study notes that their data is not clean and in any way directly representative of premium cigars. 

This study notes that 0.7% of the US population smokes cigars. As we go through these studies, the percentage of people who smoke premium cigars will vary widely depending on what narrative the researchers are attempting to push. 

This study notes that brands were labeled as either premium or non-premium with no in-between or other considerations. To continue, the study notes as a method of coding premium versus non-premium, “cigar smokers were asked if they have a regular brand of cigars that they usually smoke and what brands they usually smoke. These brand data were used as step 1 in defining premium versus non-premium cigar use. For those who did not provide a regular brand, price data were used as step 2.”  So these so-called researchers are asking consumers what they think, then if their answer is insufficient, they determine what is premium using price point. A price point that is not listed in the ‘study.’ 

This ‘study’ premium cigar users exhibited similar lifetime cigar use to smokers of other cigar types. “70% of all cigar types, including premium, smoked 51 or more cigars in their lifetime.” How is this number helpful? The average cigar smoker smokes between one and two a month, meaning if the researchers asked any cigar smoker over the age of 54, their answer, statistically, would be over 51 cigars. This heavily qualified question is not helpful in the pursuit of positive or negative policy. 

The study continues by noting that 18.1% of premium cigar users use other types of cigars. This had no mention of definition or method for receiving that information. The consumer cannot be expected to smoke a cigar and understand if the cigar is made up of 49% long filler tobacco versus 50% long filler. 

The study continues, “Over 45% of premium cigar users bought cigars in smoke shop or tobacco specialty store compared to 30% of non-premium users and 12% to 19% of cigarillo and filtered cigar users.”

The study notes that premium cigars ‘typically’ do not have a characterizing flavor. Even though the court’s definition, which the study presented in the beginning, notes that to have the distinction of being a premium cigar, they must not have a characterizing flavor. This is juxtaposed to the alleged data presented where over 40% of participants listed ‘they come in flavors I like’ as to why they smoke premium cigars. This data is messy and does not paint a clear picture of the premium cigar market, the users of premium cigars, or any other details regarding this industry. This study was clearly written by people with little to no working knowledge of the tobacco industry. 

They follow up their commentary of characterizing flavors by stating that publications that describe cigars as having notes of ‘xyz’ could be pushing people into thinking they like the “flavor a cigar comes in” which is a messy way to say ‘I like smoking cigars.’ 

[2] Cross-Sectional Patterns And Longitudinal Transitions Of Premium And Non-Premium Cigar Use In The United States 

This study starts with “Cigar use is common in the United States (…) however, trends and longitudinal patterns of premium and non-premium cigar use is limited”. With that said, on the same page, the study notes adult premium cigar smoking from 2013 to 2014 is 0.7% with a 95% confidence interval.

This study also notes that those who enjoy premium cigars are at a “staggering” 200% above the poverty line for income status… Except, that means the average cigar smoker makes around $40,000, the 30th percentile of earners. Hardly the immense wealth that this study would have you believe it is. Classic anti-tobacco rhetoric that sounds good until you put any amount of thought into it. 

The study continues by covering the percentage breakdown for demographics of premium cigar smokers. According to this study, 0.7% of US adults smoke cigars, with 97.7% being male smokers. For age demographics, the largest group was the 55+ community, which accounts for 34.8% of premium cigar smokers. Regarding race and ethnicity, the breakdown is as follows: White non-Hispanic 79.5%, Black 6.2%, Hispanic at 9.2%. 

This study then breaks down how many cigars someone has smoked in their lifetime… groundbreaking research… turns out that the most common smoker, a 55+ person who initiated cigar smoking at 30 years old has smoked over 51 cigars in their lifetime… or two a month for 25 years. These numbers have been known in the industry since the early days of the PATH Study. 

[3] Cross-Sectional Use Patterns And Characteristics Of Premium Versus Non-Premium Cigar Smokers In The United States (2010-2019)

This study starts off by establishing that cigarette smoking has been on a steady decline over the past two decades and notes that cigar smoking has seen a 145% increase from 1998 to 2020, but this is accounting for bulk cigar sales in dollar form. Since 1998, the United States has seen 88% inflation, bringing the actual number to a 55% increase over the 1998 numbers. It also notes that in 2009 $2.47 Billion dollars of cigars were sold, compared to 3.27 billion in 2020. This sounds like an increase, but again, taking inflation into account, the 2009 sales figures are closer to $3.52 billion in 2020 dollars. This was a decrease over the $3.27 billion which was sold in 2020. Once again, the anti-tobacco folk are smudging the numbers to make it seem that there is some massive increase in cigar sales to go along with the decrease in cigarette sales. Unfortunately for them, the premium cigar industry seems to grow naturally and not because of the decreased number of cigarettes sold. These are not complementary or substitute products. Premium cigars and premium cigar smokers are distinctly different from cigarette smokers. 

This study continues by noting the prevalence of cigar smoking in the US. Apparently, around 1% of the U.S. population smokes cigars, rounding up from the 0.7% that every other study has noted. A 42% exaggeration, in an attempt to make the smoking of cigars seem like an issue… a 1% of the population issue. A comparable amount of people surf as smoke cigars, yet there are not millions of dollars of studies going into the health effects and patterns of surfing in the U.S. There are government agencies built to regulate tobacco, discussions in the White House and Congress over premium cigar use, even though its user base is 0.7% of the population. Seems like a misuse of funds. 

The study concludes with a note that “Premium cigars compose a small share of the market compared to other cigar types and are less likely to be used by youth; further, most users smoke them only occasionally.” 

[4] Estimating Prevalence Of Premium Or Traditional Cigar Use And User Characteristics Based On Varying Definitions Of Use 

This study relies heavily on the perception of cigar smoking among its users. This study wants to establish whether or not premium cigar smokers believe cigars are bad for you… Like anyone’s beliefs change the facts… 

When asking if people smoke premium cigars, the survey asked if the smoker smoked: Romeo y Julieta, Arturo Fuente, Punch, Paragas, Cohiba, Montecristo, Acid, or others. These are the brands that the study has determined to be both prevalent in the market and premium. Seems like a qualified question. Furthermore, in the other category, folks were asked to name the brand, and the researchers arbitrarily branded those listed in the other category as premium or not premium. 

Back to whether or not people believe premium cigars are unhealthy. 29% of respondents believed cigars were less harmful than cigarettes. Again, not helpful. If 100% of respondents believed that rubber bands make helicopters fly, is that accurate? Nope, not at all. This is not real research. 

[5] Survey Of Premium Versus Large Manufactured Cigar Use In U.S. Consumers 

This study used an internet survey, which brings a sampling bias into question from the outset. Who is filling out the survey, and who is likely to participate? Are the 55+ smokers, who make up the most significant minority of cigar smokers, going to fill out the survey to the degree that they are represented in the generalized smokers pool? Probably not. This is why this survey and the study that bases all of its findings on it should not be considered legitimate by any standard. This survey, which has a major sampling bias, questions people’s perceptions of smoking cigars… They are not consulting seasoned researchers, doctors, or experts, but smokers on their opinions on the risk perceptions. This survey is not helpful at all and is not based on reality. As was stated previously, if 100% of people who scuba dive believe it will make them taller, will it? No, because that is not how science works. 

The demographics represented in the survey were wildly inconsistent with the demographics who make up cigar smoking across the US. The survey used data collected from 84 women and 104 men. Hardly a pool representative of cigar smokers nationally, seeing that 0.7% of the population smokes cigars, according to the numerous previous studies in this bulk release. Also, a point worth considering is that 84 participants being women is over representative of the women smokers versus men. The survey questions given in the questionnaire ranged from where people smoke (without an option for a lounge, bar, or shop), if the smoker thought that cigars cause cancer, if cigars were addictive, etc… The survey questions are ridiculous and not helpful for meaningful, good-faith research.  

[6] Premium And Non-Premium Cigar Use Among A Nationally Representative Sample Of Reproduction-Age Women: Findings From The 2010- 2019 National Survey On Drug Use And Health 

This study considers women of ‘reproductive age’ and the smoking of premium cigars. The researchers are focusing on this, even though 21 to 49 represents a relatively low percentage of premium smokers, and women in that age range are at an even lower percentage. This study continues by claiming around 5% of premium cigar smokers are women; this is inconsistent with the previous studies in this bulk release, which puts the number of premium cigar smokers who are women at around 2.3% of total cigar smokers. Of those 2.3% of women who smoke, over 61.5% of them are likely to be above 35 years old, and over a third of total women smokers are above 55 years old. They follow up the “finding” that around 5% of premium cigar smokers are women by stating that 24.5% of women of reproductive age are cigar smokers. 

[7] Premium Cigar Festivals: A Potential Target For Marketing Restrictions

Please see blog post here

[8] Regulatory Research Advances On Premium Cigars 

This study covers much of the research that was done in the other studies released at the same time. It notes that over 80% of premium cigars are sold in single stick format. It also notes that “premium cigar smoking was associated with lower odds of mental health indicators and substance dependent relative to non-premium cigar and cigarette smoking.” 

[9] Examining Cigar Pack Quantity Purchases By Cigar Type In The United States Between 2014 And 2017

Yet another study that is inconsistent with wildly inconsistent data. This study notes that cigar smoking is prevalent among Americans, with 3.5% of Americans smoking cigars. The study did note that this includes all cigar categories but does not clarify that premium cigar smoking is very low at 0.7% of the population smoking cigars. 

This study continues by noting that the larger the packaging of cigars, increases the amount of cigars sold. Single stick next to a five pack, next to a 20-count box; the fact is that people buy their cigars and smoke very infrequently. No consideration is given to collecting cigars; only if they are sold, they must be smoked. Much later in the study, it notes that over 84% of premium cigar sales are single stick sales, with box sales of over 20 cigars low at just 8.6%. So even though at the start of the study, the researchers claimed that higher amounts of cigars equals higher sales, this is incorrect. The greater majority of premium cigar smokers purchase their cigars one at a time. 

[10] The Promotion Of Premium Cigars On Social Media 

This “study” starts with this ridiculous statement: “The health effect of premium cigar smoking is determined by patterns of use and perceptions.” In what world do perceptions change how a product affects its user’s health? If you believe that french fries are good for you and salad is bad for you, does it change the facts, figures, and science? Once again… Absolutely not… 

The study highlights that magazines portray cigar smoking as a luxury activity and commonly place premium cigar ads and reviews next to expensive timepieces, yachts, and luxury cars. It further states that premium cigar brands are attempting to equate premium cigar smoking with success, with business leaders or financial success portrayed in advertisements. The big question is… So what? There does not seem to be an overall point that they are trying to make.

For social media, the researchers stated that 77% of premium cigar brands surveyed had social media accounts. The researchers seemed obsessed with the fact that many of the social media accounts showed the smoking of premium cigars around luxury goods and alcohol. Considering premium cigar brands target adults, it does not make sense to target them negatively. It analyzes the rhetoric surrounding the posts, stating that brands used terms like family, heritage, hunting, fishing, etc. Again, they are targeting their demographics. 

This study concludes by saying that premium cigar brands have a “large” social media presence… total cigar companies averaged a max of 42,000 followers… hardly the massive following they are making it seem to be. Seeing that Tylor Swift has 271,000,000 followers just on Instagram, and she does not have a dedicated study, it seems this whole study should be thrown out. 

[11] Exploring The Presence And Type Of Premium Cigar Retailers With Neighborhood Sociodemographic Correlates In The United States, 2019-2021

Blog post pending

[12] The Portrayal Of Premium Cigar Selling Propositions In Lifestyle Magazines: A Content Analysis 

This study analyzes tobacco magazines and starts with the staggering statistic that 92% of cigar magazines have cigars on the cover… Once again, we are presented with some of the most groundbreaking research ever done for premium cigars… The researchers follow this up with a major qualifying error that celebrities are portrayed. The error is that the researchers used the age range from 18 to 30. 18 to 30 is not a fair determination because the legal age of purchase when the study was published was 21. Age ranges from under 18, 18 to 20, and 21 plus would be far more helpful and not misleading as this data can be. 

[13] Improving Point-Of-Sale Warnings For Single Cigars: Implications For Premium Cigars 

This study suggests that warning labels ought to be posted at the point of sale. The study starts with stating that different cigar types of cigars are not inherently different than one another. This is false and was demonstrated in the court case Cigar Association of America et. al. vs. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration et. al. The study continues by stating that 840 people qualified for the study conducted for this research. Eight hundred forty people is not representative of the population. And, even with that, only 804 people completed the study. The study states that text-only warning signs were ineffective and states that warnings with graphic warning images were far more effective. This is a moot point, seeing that premium cigars are not subject to federal warning labels, and were not when the study was written. 

The images used could not be published in the study due to copyright reasons… This is not a fair and balanced study presenting information unbiasedly. A fair assessment cannot be reached Without seeing the majority of the images depicted. 

[14] Biomarkers Of Toxic Exposure And Oxidative Stress Among U.S. Adult Users Of Premium Cigars Versus Other Cigar Subtypes: 2013- 2019 

This groundbreaking study starts with the fact that cigars, as a generalized category, are the second largest combustible tobacco category after cigarettes… yeah. And? There are more cigars sold than pipe tobacco or roll-your-own. This is not a fair representation of the tobacco market and certainly not the premium cigar market. The researchers found that 90% of premium cigars are over $2 retail. I would be curious to know what premium cigars they found under $2 retail. 

[15] Evaluating Correlations Between Premium Cigar Smoking And Mental Health And Substance Use Dependence Conditions Among U.S. Adults, 2010-2019

This study first presents, “Cigar smoking has been associated with elevated risk of mortality from tobacco-related cancers and increased prevalence of alcohol and substance abuse.” This is false and was presented as such in the March 2022 NASEM report. 

Following this, the study presents psychological disorders among smokers. Among premium cigar smokers, the chances of mental health disorders were lower than the average across the board. In some categories, premium cigar smokers were far lower than nonsmokers. Specifically worth highlighting is that in non-smokers, major psychological and major depressive episodes were found in around 23.6% of participants compared to 8.8% of premium cigar smokers. 

Article written and compiled by the Premium Cigar Association (PCA) Government Affairs team.