Answers about Black and Milds, Swisher Sweets, and other little cigars and cigarillos

Here are some questions we saw asked on the internet. Click on them to see the answers.

What’s the difference between cigarettes, little cigars, cigarillos, and cigars?

Cigarettes are wrapped in a paper tube. Anything with a tobacco wrapper is classified as a cigar. In the cigar group, the smallest are called “little cigars” (like Winchester or Cheyenne), the medium-sized ones are called “cigarillos” (like Black & Mild or Swisher Sweets), and the largest ones are usually just called “cigars.” 1, 2

The ingredients in these products may be a little different, but they’re all filled with deadly, addictive tobacco.3

Here’s what they look like:

Photo showing: cigarette, little cigar, cigarillo (tipped), cigarillo, cigar

Do these products have tobacco?

Yes. They all have tobacco in them.

Do they have nicotine?

Yes. They all have nicotine.4, 5

How bad are these products? Do they cause cancer?

Cigarillos and little cigars can be deadly. Just like cigarettes, smoking cigarillos and little cigars causes lung, mouth and throat cancer and many other diseases.3

Are they addictive?

Yes. Nicotine is an addictive substance. Since little cigars and cigarillos all have nicotine4, 5, they all can be addictive.6

Are cigarillos or little cigars safer than cigarettes?

No, cigarillos and little cigars can be as harmful as cigarettes.7, 8 They can cause cancer and other diseases.3

Aren’t cigarillos more natural?

No. The basic ingredients are the same as in cigarettes. Sometimes cigarillos have flavorings added and have appealing scents, but they are still toxic. 3

Do people inhale cigarillos or little cigars? If they don’t inhale, are they still dangerous?

Most cigar smokers don’t inhale when they smoke, but some people inhale cigarillos and little cigars when they smoke them. 9 Either way, they are harmful to your health and can cause cancer.

I’ve smoked a couple of cigarillos. Have I done a lot of damage?

Every puff of a cigarillo does more damage to your health and increases your chances of getting cancer.3 The more you smoke the more damage you do. The best thing is not to start smoking. If you already smoke, see the last question below for help quitting.

Is there anything I can do to make a cigar, little cigar, or cigarillo safer?

No. Whenever you inhale the smoke from burned tobacco, you are breathing in thousands of chemicals, some of which cause cancer.3 And tobacco naturally has nicotine which is addictive so it can be very hard to stop smoking.

What percent of people smoke big cigars, little cigars, or cigarillos? Who smokes these?

About 1 in 20, or 5% of Americans smoke big cigars, little cigars, or cigarillos. A higher percentage of adults who haven't finished high school smoke cigars than those who have finished high school or college.10

Why do some people take the paper out of Black and Milds (sometimes called freaking, champing, regulating, or hyping)? Does taking the paper out make them safer?

Some people take the liner paper out of the tube of cigarillos because they think it makes them less harsh or that it reduces the harm. But really, the tobacco inside is what causes cancer and other diseases. 3

Who makes these little cigars/cigarillos?

Most are made by a few large tobacco companies: Altadis, Altria (Philip Morris), Lane (R. J. Reynolds), Swedish Match, and Swisher.11

Why do tobacco companies make so many different flavors of cigars and cigarillos?

Flavors may make these products more attractive to youth and adults who don’t normally smoke.

Why are cigars sold on the counter but cigarettes are kept behind the counter? Why can you buy a single cigarillo but not a single cigarette?

There are different laws for cigarettes and cigarillos about how they can be packaged and sold.

Are menthol cigarillos safer than non-menthol cigarillos?

No. Adding menthol to tobacco does not make it safer.14 Even though people may think that they are less harsh, they still cause cancer.

Are tobacco companies directing their ads at African-Americans?

Research says yes. Studies show that there are more than twice as many tobacco ads per person in African-American neighborhoods than White ones.15 This is particularly alarming, since there are more tobacco-related deaths among African-Americans than among whites.16, 17

How can I get more involved in tobacco prevention?

Here are some good Web sites where you can learn more:

I want to quit smoking little cigars or cigarillos. Where can I go to get help?

Here are some Web sites where you can learn how to quit:

Or you can get free help quitting from a live person by calling: 1.800.QUIT.NOW (784-8669)

Have a question we didn’t answer? Suggest a new one.


1. U.S. Department of the Treasury, Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. Tobacco Products. 2008 Accessed November 6, 2008; Available from:
2. U.S. Department of the Treasury, Internal Revenue Service, Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Division (1969) Reconstituted Tobacco as Wrapper for Rolls of Tobacco. Industry Circular, 69-11. Accessed November 6, 2008; Available from:
3. National Cancer Institute. Cigars: health effects and trends. 1998, Bethesda, Md.: U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, National Institutes of Health. Available from:
4. Henningfield, J.E., M. Hariharan, and L.T. Kozlowski, Nicotine content and health risks of cigars. JAMA, 1996. 276(23): p. 1857-8.
5.Turner, J.A., R.W. Sillett, and M.W. McNicol, Effect of cigar smoking on carboxyhaemoglobin and plasma nicotine concentrations in primary pipe and cigar smokers and ex-cigarette smokers. Br Med J, 1977. 2(6099): p. 1387-9.
6. Benowitz, N.L., Pharmacology of Nicotine: Addiction, Smoking-Induced Disease, and Therapeutics. Annu Rev Pharmacol Toxicol, 2008.
7. Boffetta, P., et al., Cigar and pipe smoking and lung cancer risk: a multicenter study from Europe. J Natl Cancer Inst, 1999. 91(8): p. 697-701.
8. Dollar, K. M., Mix, J. M., Kozlowski, L. T. Little cigars, big cigars: Omissions and commissions of harm and harm reduction information on the Internet. Nicotine Tob Res. 2008. 10(5): p. 819-826.
9. Henningfield, J.E., et al., Nicotine concentration, smoke pH and whole tobacco aqueous pH of some cigar brands and types popular in the United States. Nicotine Tob Res, 1999. 1(2): p. 163-8.
10. SAMHSA., Results from the 2007 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: National Findings, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Office of Applied Studies: Rockville, MD. Available from:
11. Gulmez, H. (2008) Cigar Market: A Push into the US Cigar Market. Tobacco Journal International. Accessed October 23, 2008. Available from: A_push_into_the_US_cigar_market.48782.0.html
12. National Association of Attorneys General. (2006) Forty-one Attorneys General and R.J. Reynolds Reach Historic Settlement to End the Sale of Flavored Cigarettes. NAAG News. Accessed October 23, 2008. Available from:
13. United States Department of Health and Human Services,Office of Inspector General, Office of Evaluation and Inspections. Youth use of cigars: federal, state regulation and enforcement. 1999, Dallas: U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General.
14. Giovino, G.A., et al., Epidemiology of menthol cigarette use. Nicotine Tob Res, 2004. 6 Suppl 1: p. S67-81.
15. Primack, B.A., et al., Volume of tobacco advertising in African American markets: systematic review and meta-analysis. Public Health Rep, 2007. 122(5): p. 607-15.
16. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (1998). Tobacco use among U.S. racial/ethnic minority groups—African Americans, American Indians and Alaska Natives, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and Hispanics: A report of the surgeon general. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
17. DeLancey, J.O., et al., Recent trends in Black-White disparities in cancer mortality. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev, 2008. 17(11): p. 2908-12.

American Legacy Foundation

This page was made in collaboration with the American Legacy Foundation.

On this page, we’re talking about little cigars, cigarillos, and cigars including:
Black and Mild, also called Black n Milds, Black & Milds, Blackies, Blacks, Milds, Tips, or Whiteheads
Swisher Sweets, also called Swishers, or Sweets
Dutch Masters, also called Dutches
Phillies, White Owl, Captain Black, Prime Time, Winchesters, and Cheyenne National Cancer Institute Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Institutes of Health Department of Health and Human Services