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Cigar use prevalence: social and media determinants

Institution: San Diego State University Research Foundation
Investigator(s): Joachim Reimann, Ph.D.
Award Cycle: 1997 (Cycle 6) Grant #: 6KT-0117 Award: $318,750
Subject Area: Public Health, Public Policy, and Economics
Award Type: New Investigator Awards

Initial Award Abstract
The proposed study is designed to provide a picture showing which Southern Californians in San Diego County tend to smoke cigars, as well as the social status, beliefs, and actions commonly connected to cigar use. In addition to learning what percentage of the population uses cigars, the study will identify personal characteristics and attitudes often associated with cigar smokers by the media and by people in general. Finally, the research will determine the amount of passive smoke that persons are exposed to at social events held for cigar smokers.

A decline in cigar consumption, noted between 1965 and 1991, has reversed in more recent years. Popular writers report that cigar smoking is now increasingly valued as a sign of affluence and social distinction, especially among highly educated young adults. A growing number of media images, social events, magazines, internet sites, and clubs focus specifically on cigars. Contrary to the common belief that cigar smoke is relatively risk-free because it is not generally inhaled, medical research has found evidence linking it with increased risk for illness including various types of cancer. Since cigar users inhale their own passive smoke, assumptions that health risks are essentially eliminated by not inhaling are probably not accurate.

Little current research has formally examined who is most inclined to smoke cigars. In addition, there is little scientific information on the public perceptions, images, and beliefs connected with cigar use. We thus propose a study investigating how popular cigar use has become, and if there are differences in this popularity between men and women from various ethnic, age, and socio-economic groups. The research will also examine how frequently cigarette smokers tend to switch to cigars and the degree to which factors such as having relatives and friends who smoke cigars, positive and negative portrayals of cigar smoking in the media, assumptions about cigar smokers typical characteristics and social status, and beliefs that smoking is unhealthy, influence cigar use. In addition, the proposed study will directly assess the type of media images associates cigar smoking, including how frequently such images are linked to specific gender, ethnic, and socio-economic groups. Finally, the amount of passive smoke which tends to exist in social situations focusing on cigars will be determined.