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NEW YORK-- A new report reveals that adolescents --including girls -- are turning to cigars in increasing numbers, according to HealthDay News .
The new trend of teens smoking cigars is due to changing fashions, according to Cristine Delnevo, an associate professor of public health at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and co-author of a report in the December 2005 issue of the American Journal of Public Health .
Because of celebrity-backed advertisements, "the cigar industry (has) successfully marketed their products to adult women and adolescents of both sexes," she said in the report. And there's another factor: a variety of new cigar flavors -- including grape, cinnamon and apple -- are making them more appealing.
Even so, Delnevo told HealthDay News , health officials haven't put the spotlight on kids and cigars: "This issue is under our radar."
Delnevo and colleagues examined recent statistics and found that overall cigar consumption in the United States has jumped by more than 28 percent between 2000 and 2004
They also point to data from the 2004 New Jersey Youth Tobacco Survey, which found that cigarette use among teens had declined by almost 30 percent between 2001 and 2004, but high school boys are now more likely to smoke cigars than cigarettes, HealthDay News reported .
About 17 percent of the New Jersey boys surveyed said they smoke cigars, compared to 16 percent who smoke cigarettes; 10 percent of highschool girls said they smoked cigars.
Last year, a survey of 4,409 Cleveland-area teens found that cigar use among teens (23 percent) outpaced cigarette use (16 percent).
In addition to the influence of advertising and new flavors, Delnevo said in the report that price is playing a major role in boosting cigar use among teens. In some states, like New Jersey, differences in tobacco tax levels actually make it cheaper to smoke cigars than cigarettes, she told HealthDay News .
Delnevo said states need to do a better job of taxing cigars appropriately and regulating where they're sold, so that it's harder for kids to get their hands on them.