It’s a common misconception that cigars are safer than cigarettes. Contrary to popular belief, cigars aren’t safer than cigarettes. They’re actually more harmful, even for people who don’t intentionally inhale.
According to the National Cancer Institute, cigar smoke contains toxic, cancer-causing chemicals that are harmful to smokers and nonsmokers. They may be more toxic than cigarette smoke.
Cigars aren’t a smoker’s loophole when it comes to cancer risk. While they may taste and smell different, cigars contain tobacco, nicotine, and other cancer-causing toxins as cigarettes do.
In fact, cigars and cigar smoke contain higher concentrations of certain cancer-causing chemicals than cigarettes.
Here are some more facts about cigars and cancer:
- Cigar smoking significantly increases your risk for cancer of the larynx (voice box), esophagus, lung, and oral cavity, which includes the mouth, tongue, and throat.
- If you smoke cigars, you have 4 to 10 times the risk of dying from oral, laryngeal, or esophageal cancers compared to a nonsmoker.
- Cigar smoke contains higher levels of cancer-causing nitrosamines than cigarette smoke.
- There’s more cancer-causing tar in cigars than cigarettes.
- Just like cigarettes, the more cigars you smoke, the greater your risk for cancer.
- Cigar smoking has also been linked to a higher risk of several other types of cancer, including:
Tobacco smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals. Of these chemicals, at least 50 are cancerous and 250 are harmful in other ways.
Cigar smoking can cause a number of side effects and significantly raise your risk for other health issues.
The following are other health effects of smoking:
Smoking is a major risk factor of peripheral artery disease (PAD), in which plaque builds up in the arteries. This can lead to:
Smoking cigars can lead to addiction. Even if you don’t intentionally inhale, nicotine can still get into your lungs and be absorbed through the lining of your mouth.
Nicotine is the main addictive chemical in tobacco. It causes a rush of adrenaline and triggers an increase in dopamine when absorbed into your bloodstream or inhaled. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter involved with reward and pleasure.
All tobacco products, including cigars and even smokeless tobacco, can lead to a physical and psychological tobacco and nicotine addiction.
Smoking cigars doesn’t just increase your risk for oral cancer. Numerous other dental health issues can arise, including gum disease.
Tobacco products can:
- damage gum tissue
- stain teeth
- cause receding gums
- cause bad breath
- cause tartar and plaque buildup
- increase sensitivity to hot and cold
- slow healing after dental work
Smoking affects both male and female reproduction. It increases the risk of infertility, harming sperm and interfering with the ability to get pregnant.
In pregnancy, tobacco increases the risk of:
Cigar smoking and cigarette smoking may not be exactly the same, but the differences between the two may surprise you.
All cigarettes are generally uniform in size. Each contains less than 1 gram of tobacco.
Cigarettes made in the United States are made from various blends of unfermented tobaccos and wrapped with paper. A cigarette takes approximately 10 minutes to smoke.
Most cigars are made of a single type of tobacco that’s been air-cured and fermented and wrapped in a tobacco wrapper. They come in different shapes and sizes. A cigar contains between 1 and 20 grams of tobacco.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the different types of cigars:
- Large cigars can measure more than 7 inches long and contain 5 to 20 grams of tobacco. Large cigars can take from one to two hours to smoke. Premium cigars sometimes contain the equivalent of an entire pack of cigarettes.
- Cigarillos are a smaller type of cigar but bigger than little cigars. Each cigarillo contains around 3 grams of tobacco.
- Little cigars are the same shape and size as cigarettes and packaged similarly, usually with 20 per pack. Some have filters, which makes them more likely to be inhaled. A little cigar contains around 1 gram of tobacco.
No matter how long you’ve been smoking cigars, quitting isn’t easy but is still possible. The health benefits of quitting smoking begin almost immediately, which makes quitting worth the effort.
The first step is making the decision to quit. Many people find planning and picking a date to quit is helpful.
That said, everyone is different. You may need to try different approaches to find what works best for you.
You can also speak to a healthcare provider. They can help you come up with a plan and recommend tools to help you quit. This may include nicotine replacement, medication, or alternate therapies.
There’s no safe form of tobacco. Cigars aren’t a healthier alternative to cigarettes. Cigars, just like all tobacco products, cause cancer. Smoking cigars also puts you and those around you at risk for numerous other health issues.
A healthcare provider can work with you to come up with a plan to quit smoking and improve your health.