Sweet and fruit flavors in cigars attracting younger buyers

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - White grape, cherry delight, chocolate, and fruit punch may sound like candy flavors. But now retailers are selling cigars with these tastes, often to teens.

According to John Abraham with Smoker's Heaven in Kansas City, the flavored cigars and cigarillos are big sellers anong his younger customers.

"I had to keep at least four to five boxes in stock," Abraham noted saying some brands, "come out with, I don't know how many flavors, tons of flavors. Every week theyr'e launching something new."

The Centers for Disease Control report the rate of high school students smoking cigars has almost doubled in just a few years, from seven percent in 2009 to 12 percent smoked in 2011. The same study shows that even middle school students are smoking them.

College student Anessa Walker isn't surprised flavored cigars are popular. She's also not surprised more high schoolers are smoking cigars.Walker believes it is all in the flavors.

"We like sweet stuff and it just, like makes you want to do it and become popular," she said.

Walker and other teens from the Hickman Mills Prevention Coalition already spent 2012 getting the city council to require flavored cigar paper – often referred to as blunt wraps- to be put behind store counters and out of reach of teens.

Now as a Hickman grad and part of the group Students Overcoming Life's Obstacles, or SOLO, Walker still works to spread the message that these cigars aren't such a sweet deal.

"It's also our fault, too, because we have to take ownership for what we do, too," Walker said. "Just because its sweet doesn't mean we have to do it."

Abraham's store does its part, turning away minors, but it doesn't stop them from trying.

"Underage people come in and ask for it, we don't even give it," Abraham said. "We check the age and we say no."

But even for adults, the store has still had to keep more and more of these sweet-selling goods on the shelf.

Flavored cigars might not be around that much longer. The FDA has already banned flavored cigarettes and now is considering banning other flavored tobacco products.

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