PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Health officials say that cigar use has increased dramatically among Philadelphia teens in recent years and now exceeds cigarette use.
The use of tobacco among Philadelphia youth remains dangerously high, according to a report by the Department of Public Health.
The report found that in 2015, 16.5 percent of Philadelphia’s youth reported use of cigarettes, cigars or smokeless tobacco, and almost 28 percent used either those products or electronic vapor products.
Officials say even though cigarette use has decreased, use of other types of tobacco products, particularly cigars and electronic vapor products, has increased sharply.
“What we are seeing is a shift away from cigarettes and to cigars and other tobacco products,” said Dr. Thomas A. Farley, the Philadelphia’s Commissioner of Public Health.
“These cheap, candy flavored products are often marketed in ways specifically designed to attract our kids.”
Farley says little cigars are often sold for 99 cents in flavors like watermelon, fruit-punch, and mint-chocolate chip and “can set our children up for a lifetime of nicotine addiction.”
The report also cited a 2016 Surgeon General report showing that electronic vapor product use increased from 1.5 percent of youth in 2011 to 16 percent in 2015 and surpassed the use of conventional cigarettes among high school students in the United States.
Officials say other key findings include that Philadelphia has the highest rate in the state of illegal tobacco sales to minors, more than double that of the next highest region.
In order to reduce tobacco use among youth, Farley says that Philadelphia Department of Health has implemented regulations passed by the Board of Health that ban new tobacco retailers near schools and limit the density of tobacco permits by neighborhood.
Philadelphians trying to quit smoking can receive free coaching and quit-smoking medications by calling 1-800-QUIT NOW.