Cigars, cigarillos, and youth: Emergent patterns in subcultural complexes

J. Bryan Page, Sian Evans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


In order to answer questions about discrepancies in self-reported tobacco use between youth from different race/ethnic categories, the authors set out to observe and characterize tobacco use among youth in two Florida counties. Their observations and interviews led to identification of a pattern of tobacco use that had not appeared before in the literature on tobacco use, the emergent phenomenon of Black & Mild consumption, especially among African American youth. Teams of field workers conducted direct observations of tobacco use among youths between the ages of 11 and 15, recruiting them and their families into open-ended interviews to determine how youths in that age range initiate and maintain tobacco use. Observational notes and in-depth interviews (all transcribed to word processing files) provided the corpus of data on which the investigators based this study. In addition, information from additional sources, including informal interviews with store owners, rap videos, and queries in other parts of the United States, helped to verify that patterns found in Miami had appeared throughout Florida and in many other parts of the United States. Initial observations took place in the environs of one middle school in southern Miami/Dade County, but additional observations and interviews that contributed to the study took place in sites near other schools, convenience stores, shopping centers, and city streets. African American, Hispanic, and white non-Hispanic young people between 11 and 15 years of age took part in this study, only after field workers obtained informed consent from their parents. Field workers conducted observations of approximately 250 youth in various settings in two counties in Florida, Miami/Dade and Alachua. They elicited 40 in-depth interviews, including one whole family interview and four focus groups. The interviews that contributed to this paper were four in-depth sessions with young African American males recruited at the middle school where key observations took place. Field observations produced a pattern of tobacco use not characterized in the literature, in which a cigarillo called "Black & Mild" that contains between five and twelve times the nicotine of cigarettes has become the product of choice among African American and other youth. Young users of these cigarillos tend not to recognize them as tobacco and believe that they contain no nicotine. Further inquiry revealed that this pattern of smoking was widespread in various parts of the United States. Use of commercial cigarettes has become increasingly expensive, and minority youth with limited money may have sought products that deliver strong nicotine for not much money. Although more research will answer this question definitively, these results suggest that the emergence of Black & Milds and related products may help to explain patterns of response to large-scale studies of tobacco use in which African American youth report less tobacco consumption than other youth. Items on tobacco use in surveys administered among North American youth need reframing in terms of cigar smoking to reflect the cultural significance of Black & Milds and related products among African American youth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)63-76
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Ethnicity in Substance Abuse
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2003


  • Cigar consumption
  • Direct observation
  • In-depth interview
  • Minority youth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


Dive into the research topics of 'Cigars, cigarillos, and youth: Emergent patterns in subcultural complexes'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this