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Mini Flavored Cigars Attracting Younger Smokers

Cheap cigarillos easily accessible to underaged smokers

Mini flavored cigars popular with young smokers

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - There's a new trend that is attracting young smokers. They're called cigarillos and are becoming more popular than cigarettes.

Cigarette sales are down by a third over the last decade but a cheaper alternative, like mini cigars have doubled in popularity in the same amount of time.

Mini cigars come in a variety of flavors from blueberry to peach, eye-catching packaging and are cheap. The combination make them attractive to a young consumer.

"They're easier to get. They're only a dollar and they're pretty cheap," said Miguel Cruz, a Santa Barbara high school student.

"They're a dollar at the corner store," said another student.

Flavored cigarettes were banned in 2009 and health experts though that would be a reduction in youth smoking. But flavored cigars are legal and the sweet smoke is masking the risks.

"They taste better because of the flavor," said Saul Ibarra, another high school student heading to lunch.

Eric Balderas think the reason young people are smoking the cigarillos is the same reason they'd start smoking cigarettes.

"I think it's just for popularity, like people who think they're cool," he said.

Matthew Lanford is the owner of Santa Barbara Cigar and Tobacco and said every now and then he'll get a young smoker asking for the mini flavored cigars.

"It doesn't surprise me that people are shifting from cigarettes that have been so heavily taxed, to an inexpensive machine made cigar," he said.

Lanford doesn't sell the mini cigars at his shop but many convenience stores do. A pack of three goes for 99 cents and a single cigar can cost just 49 cents.

That price point is a lot cheaper than the premium cigars sold at Lanford's store that range from $8 to $15 a piece.

He thinks he knows that the cigarillo manufacturers are doing.

"If they're hoping to lure kids that are under 18 to go an try to make that illegal purchase, shame on them and shame on the person for selling them," he said.

Federal research shows about one in six 18-to-24-year-olds smoke cigars but that doesn't take into account even younger smokers.

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