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6 Facts about Cigar Smoking

What You Should Know About Cigars and Cigar Smoking


Updated June 11, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Businessman smoking cigar in restaurant, businessmen in background
Michael Blann/Digital Vision/Getty Images

It’s a common misconception that cigar smoking is less risky than cigarette smoking. Not true. Cigars are not safer than cigarettes, but because they are used differently, the health hazards differ somewhat as well.

Cigar Smoking vs. Cigarette Smoking

  • Approximately 75 percent of cigar smokers don't inhale and don't smoke cigars on a daily basis.
  • Cigarette smokers do inhale, and most smoke 20, 30 or more cigarettes every day.
These differences in smoking habit explain why cigar smokers are generally exposed to less of the poisons and carcinogens present in cigars than cigarette smokers are to similar toxins in cigarettes, and why there are fewer instances of cigar smoking-related disease and death than we see with cigarettes.

Let's take a look at a few facts about cigars and cigar smoking -- some of them might surprise you.

Facts About Cigar Smoking

1. One cigar may contain as much tobacco as an entire pack of cigarettes.
A single cigarette typically has less than a gram of tobacco, while a single cigar may contain as much as 5 to 17 grams of tobacco.

2. Cigars are addictive.
Cigar smoke breaks down in saliva, allowing the smoker to easily absorb nicotine through the lining of the mouth in quantities sufficient to cause addiction, even if the smoke is not inhaled. And, the amount of nicotine in a single cigar is many times greater than what is found in a cigarette. A typical cigarette contains one to two milligrams of nicotine, while the nicotine content of a cigar is 100 to 200 milligrams, with some as high as 400 milligrams.

3. Cigar smoke is more concentrated and toxic than cigarette smoke.
Secondhand smoke from cigars varies from that of cigarettes for a couple of reasons. First, the manufacturing process for cigars requires a fermentation period. During this time, high concentrations of tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNAs) are produced. TSNAs are some of the most carcinogenic compounds known to man. Secondly, cigar wrappers are not as porous as cigarette wrappers, making the combustion of a cigar less complete. These two factors result in higher concentrations some of the toxic chemicals in cigars than in cigarettes.

4. Smoking as little as one cigar a day increases the risk for cancer.
Cigar smoking has been linked to several different cancers, most notably those of the oral cavity, which include lip, tongue, mouth, throat and larynx. Cigar smokers who inhale are also at an increased risk for lung cancer, cancers of the pancreas and bladder, as well as heart and lung disease.

5. Cigar and pipe smokers are at risk for early tooth loss.
In a study published in the January 1999 issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association, it was discovered that cigar and pipe smokers are at an increased risk for early tooth loss, compared to that of their nonsmoking counterparts. Cigar and pipe smokers are also at an increased risk for alveolar bone(the bone that holds the tooth in place) loss.

6. Cigar smoking has been linked to erectile dysfunction in men.
Smokers are twice as likely to be impotent as nonsmokers due to the adverse effects smoking has on circulation, hormones and the nervous system. Cigar smoking and exposure to second hand smoke in particular have been shown to be significant risk factors for erectile dysfunction.

All forms of tobacco have risks associated with them, and cigars are no different. Steer clear of cigars, and avoid the secondhand smoke they produce.

There is no such thing as a "safe" tobacco product.


Questions and Answers about Cigar Smoking. 07 March, 2000. National Cancer Institute

Alveloar Bone Loss and Tooth Loss in Male Cigar and Pipe Smokers. January, 1999. Krall, Elizabeth et al. Journal of the American Dental Association

Erectile Dysfunction and Coronary Risk Factors: Prospective Results from the Massachusetts Male Aging Study. 2000. Feldman HA et al. Preventive Medicine.

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