Backgrounder on Cigarillos

looser laws for cigars allow more scope for marketing to kids

When is a cigar not a cigar?

When it is a cigarette disguised to slip through an excise tax loophole.

Health Canada regulations for cigars are much more lax than they are for cigarettes.  There is no minimum size for cigar packages (cigarettes must be sold in packages with no fewer than 20 units).  Cigars do not have to have warnings on individual units, nor do they have to have warnings on both sides of multiple unit packages.

The difference between cigars and cigarettes is established by the Excise Tax Act, which deems that cigars are tobacco products wrapped in tobacco leaf.  Or, to be precise:

"cigar" means every description of cigar, cigarillo and cheroot and any roll or tubular construction intended for smoking that consists of a filler composed of pieces of natural or reconstituted leaf tobacco, a binder of natural or reconstituted leaf tobacco in which the filler is wrapped and a wrapper of natural or reconstituted leaf tobacco

Small tobacco merchants have moved into this legal loop-hole and started selling cigarette-like cigars in Canada. A wide variety of these tobacco products is now available -- usually cheaper than even the discount brand cigarettes (although the federal taxes charged on these products are about the same) .  The individually wrapped cigarillos shown here are sold at many convenience stores and costs about the same as a candy bar.  The packages shown below purchased for $5.00 - about $2 cheaper than the most inexpensive legally produced cigarettes.

The 'cigar' on the left is the same height as the 'cigarette' on the right and contains approximately the same amount of tobacco. Both have filters.  The paper which surrounds the 'cigar' has tobacco fibre in it, which classifies this tobacco product as a cigar.

Individual cigarillos are sold in containers that have no health warnings. This packaging helps suggest that cigarillos are no more harmful than the lipgloss or markers they resemble.  

Unlike cigarettes, the cigarette size-cigarillos shown above can be sold in single packages. They are sold without health warnings

Both are available in kiddy-pack sizes, at kiddy-friendly prices and kiddy-friendly flavours. Individual cigarillos are available in - count 'em - eleven flavours (chocolate mint, cherry, rum, wild berry, cinnamon...). None of them has the same level of health warning messages as regular cigarettes.

The result is a market with cheap and kid-friendly tobacco products. 

The government requires a lower level of warning for 'little cigars' than it does for cigarettes. On cigarettes warnings must be on the top of both sides, for cigar packages, they must only be on the bottom of one side. These cigarettes were sold for $5 -- by far the cheapest smoked cigarettes on the market.

 No laws are in place to restrict companies from flavouring or promising sweetness (i.e. "honey roasted")