Tobacco Researcher Wins Grant To Study Youth Use Of Little Cigars, Cigarillos

A Georgia State University professor has won a $100,000 grant from the Prevent Cancer Foundation to research how advertising and environmental factors influence African American youth to start smoking little cigars and cigarillos.

The grant, titled The Little Cigar and Cigarillo PhotoVoice Feasibility Project, will be led by Dr. Kymberle L. Sterling, Associate Professor of Health Promotion & Behavior at the School of Public Health at Georgia State.

Dr. Kymberle Sterling

Dr. Kymberle Sterling

The use of little cigars and cigarillos (LCCs) has been rising steadily among African American youth, and Dr. Sterling’s long-term goal is to develop effective interventions to reverse that trend. LCCs are not regulated as strictly as traditional cigarettes, thought they contain similar amounts of nicotine and toxins. Unlike cigarettes, LCCs are available in fruit, candy and other flavorings that appeal to young people, and the products are subject to fewer advertising and marketing restrictions.

The two-year grant will allow Dr. Sterling to employ PhotoVoice, a tool that uses photography to foster community participation in research, to involve youth in documenting LCC advertising and marketing in their neighborhoods. She will also research the potential use of PhotoVoice as an advocacy tool among African American youth. The project will also include a survey of 11-14 year-olds in an effort to determine factors that make youth more likely to become users of little cigars and cigarillos.

In her previous research, Dr. Sterling has found that the use and marketing of sweet and fruit flavors in little cigars and cigarillos is an attractive lure to entice young adults to try and use the products. Her research also notes that the wide range of flavors also appears to encourage continued experimenting and exploration by young users who often share and discuss new flavors with friends.

In another study, Dr. Sterling found that smokers who consume menthol cigarettes daily are more likely to also smoke flavored little cigars and cigarillos. (Menthol-flavored cigarettes are the only flavored cigarettes not banned under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act in 2009.) This “dual use” of regular cigarettes and LCCs may widen health disparities by elevating rates of tobacco-caused death and disease among African-Americans and Latinos, who already suffer disproportionately high rates of cancer due to smoking, Dr. Sterling has noted.

111