Researchers Scrutinize How, Why a Cigarette
Company Initiated the Little Cigar Boom
NEW BRUNSWICK — In an article to be published in the August issue of the American Journal of Public Health, researchers from the UMDNJ-School of Public Health analyzed previously secret tobacco industry documents and concluded that a major tobacco company exploited loopholes to market little cigars as cigarettes while avoiding cigarette tax and regulatory restrictions.
In the article titled “A Whole ‘Nother Smoke or a Cigarette in Disguise,” co-authors Dr. Cristine Delnevo and Mary Hrywna, of the UMDNJ-School of Public Health, wrote:
“Almost 40 years ago, RJ Reynolds engaged in a calculated effort to blur the line between cigarettes and little cigars with Winchester, a little cigar designed for cigarette smokers that was as close to cigarettes as legally possible…Today, there is an overwhelming sense of deja-vu - little cigar sales reached an all-time high in 2006. As was the case 40 years ago, there is a marked disparity between cigarette and little cigar excise taxes.”
Winchester little cigars, manufactured and marketed by RJ Reynolds, exploded onto the market in 1971 and were the primary driver of the little cigar boom of the early 1970s. After researching thousands of documents from the tobacco industry archives, the researchers concluded that:
· RJ Reynolds designed the Winchester to be a substitute for cigarettes while still classified as a cigar. That industry documents revealed that Phillip Morris, a competing tobacco company, believed that Winchesters were a ‘cheap cigarette’ designed to evade cigarette taxes.
· Winchester little cigars passed through a legal loophole that allowed RJ Reynolds to advertise little cigars on television after cigarette television advertising was banned.
· The low price of cigars relative to cigarettes fueled RJ Reynolds’ interest in developing a little cigar product.
· Despite the product’s similarity to cigarettes in shape, size, filters, and packaging, tobacco manufacturers continue to sell little cigars without the current, higher cigarette excise taxes or the escrow payments cigarette companies must make to the Master Settlement Agreement.
In October, the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau proposed a regulation change that would legally define little cigars as cigarettes. A main argument against the proposed rule by the tobacco industry is that the little cigar is a distinct product because it has existed for over 40 years.
The authors take issue with that argument and they argue that “little cigar marketing continues to capitalize on tax disparities and cigarettelike characteristics” and conclude that rule changes are needed to close taxation loopholes for little cigars because “the tobacco industry then and now has knowingly and deliberately marketed the little cigar as a suitable, more favorably priced, choice for cigarette smokers.”
To request an interview with the article’s co-authors, please contact Jerry Carey, UMDNJ News Service, at (856) 566-6171 or (973) 972-3000.
A Whole ‘Nother Smoke or a Cigarette in Disguise: How RJ Reynolds reframed the image of little cigars” will be available online at http://www.ajph.org/ on June 28. Journalists can request an embargoed copy by contacting Olivia Chang at (202) 326-6023 or at email@example.com.
The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey is the nation's largest free-standing public health sciences university with more than 5,700 students attending the state's three medical schools, its only dental school, a graduate school of biomedical sciences, a school of health related professions, a school of nursing and its only school of public health, on five campuses. Last year, there were more than two million patient visits to UMDNJ facilities and faculty at campuses in Newark, New Brunswick/Piscataway, Scotch Plains, Camden and Stratford. UMDNJ operates University Hospital, a Level I Trauma Center in Newark, and University Behavioral HealthCare, a mental health and addiction services network.