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What are the Risks of Cigar Smoking?


Updated June 11, 2014

Man from Greece enjoys cigar at Dupont Circle in NW Washington DC.
Elvert Barnes/Moment/Getty Images

Young Americans are picking up cigar smoking in increasing numbers. This growing trend is due in part to Big Tobacco’s efforts to glamorize cigar smoking and has been reinforced by the movie industry. The portrayal of stars smoking in movies is influential and usually directly aimed at young people.

Many people are under the misconception that smoking a cigar is a safe alternative to cigarette smoking. It is not.

Let’s take a look at some of the facts about the dangers of cigar smoking:

Cigars are Addictive

Nicotine is the addictive ingredient in any tobacco product. Cigars have a high level of nicotine in them; usually many times that of cigarettes. In fact, some premium cigars have as much nicotine in them as an entire pack of cigarettes, or more.

If cigar smoke is inhaled, nicotine will enter the bloodstream through the lungs. If not, the nicotine is absorbed through the lining of the mouth. Cigar smoke dissolves more easily in saliva than cigarette smoke because its composition is alkaline. This allows for quick absorption of nicotine, producing dependence without inhalation.

Cigar Smoking and Cancer

Cancers associated with cigar smoking:

Both cigarette and cigar smokers share a similar risk for cancers of the oral cavity and esophagus.

People who smoke 1 or 2 cigars daily double their risk of oral and esophageal cancer over nonsmokers. Those who smoke 3 to 4 cigars a day increase their risk of oral cancers by 8 times and esophageal cancers by 4 times that of nonsmokers. Risk factors for people who are occasional cigar smokers (less than daily) are not known.

Cigar Smoking and Heart Disease

Cigar smoking is hard on the heart. A 25 year long study published in the Journal of American Medical Association reported that cigar smokers may suffer as much as 27 percent more risk than that of nonsmokers for coronary heart disease. The study looked at approximately 18,000 men, between the ages of 30 and 85. Over 1500 of them were cigar smokers, and it was discovered that these people suffered more occurrences of heart disease than did their nonsmoking counterparts.

Cigar Smoking and COPD

Cigar smokers are at an increased risk over nonsmokers for chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Most cigar smokers don’t inhale, so the risk of COPD is less than that of cigarette smokers. A U.S. study reports that cigar smokers have up to 45 percent greater risk of COPD than that of nonsmokers.

Cigar Smoking and Early Tooth Loss

There is evidence showing that cigar and pipe smoking may also lead to early tooth loss according to a study published in the January 1999 issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association. Researchers from Boston University followed 690 men over the course of 23 years and concluded that those who smoked cigars were 30 percent more likely to lose their teeth than nonsmokers. Pipe smokers were 60 percent more likely suffer early tooth loss than nonsmokers. Cigar and pipe smokers are also at an increased risk for alveolar bone loss.

Cigar smoking is dangerous. All forms of tobacco have risks associated with them, and cigars are no different. Don’t be fooled. There is no such thing as a risk-free tobacco product.


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