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Shelley Osterloh ReportingSurveys show cigarette smoking among Utah teenagers has declined about 39-percent since 1999. But more and more teens are smoking cigars. In fact the number doubled in just two years.
Signs posted at smoke shops say you have to be 19-years old to buy tobacco. But underage smokers tell us older friends buy for them, and increasingly what they want are cigars. Not the big fat stogies, the smaller, sweet, flavored varieties that may cost less than a dollar each and can be purchased one at a time.
Clint Fear, 16-Years Old, Smokes Cigars: "I don't know, there's like a whole bunch of flavors, I like 'em all."
Sixteen-year old Clint Fear tried his first cigarette when he was nine. Now he admits he's addicted. He says he started smoking cigars because his friends were doing it.
Clint Fear: “People think it's cool. They do it to fit in. I know a lot of people who do it for that, just that one reason.”
In 2003 more than 7% of Utah high school students reported using cigars in the past 30 days. That's double the number of teens from two years before. Experts say some teens mistakenly think cigars are a safe alternative to cigarettes.
The American Cancer Society says that one cigar can have between five and 17 grams of tobacco in it, and that one large cigar may have as much tobacco as a whole pack of cigarettes. Lena Dibble with the State Health department says it is myth that cigars are less addictive.
Lena Dibble, Utah Health Dept. Tobacco Prevention: “Well, if you inhale you are getting the nicotine that you would get otherwise. And even if you don't inhale, you will get the nicotine. It's just being absorbed through your mouth rather than your lungs.”
She says cigar smoking increases the risk of death by four to ten percent from several different kinds of cancer and lung disease.
Teens are also able to buy cigars and cigarettes from internet websites that don't check the buyers age.