Cigar use is on the rise. In May, a study by the American Legacy Foundation found that an increasing number of young adults were using cigars, often in addition to cigarettes. Many people mistakenly believe that cigars are a safe alternative to cigarettes. The fact is they are not. While cigars come in many different shapes, sizes, packages, and price ranges, all cigars are designed to deliver nicotine in tobacco smoke, and tobacco smoke causes a myriad of health problems.
A cigar is defined as tobacco wrapped in tobacco leaf, and a cigarette is defined as tobacco wrapped in paper. While there has been more research into the health consequences of smoking cigarettes, cigar smoke has not been shown to be any safer than cigarette smoke. People who smoke cigars are at greater risk for oral cancer, pancreatic cancer, lung cancer, esophageal cancer, COPD, heart disease, and tooth decay when compared with non-smokers. These health problems occur whether a cigar smoker reports inhaling or not.
Cigars are designed so that when the tobacco smoke is pulled into the mouth large amounts of nicotine are absorbed across the lining of the mouth. Cigar smokers who inhale the tobacco smoke into the lungs get even higher concentrations of nicotine. Cigar smoke frequently has much higher levels of nicotine when compared with cigarette smoke. Just as with cigarettes, the propensity to become addicted differs among individuals, but people can and do become addicted to cigars like they do to cigarettes. And, cigar smoke can cause a relapse to cigarettes in people who have stopped smoking cigarettes but who try a cigar.
Tobacco companies advertise and market cigars to many different types of consumers. Because cigars are usually taxed at a much lower rate than cigarettes, some people smoke little cigars in place of cigarettes because they are cheaper. Other types of cigars are marketed to high end consumers. Glossy magazines like “Cigar Aficionado” use movie stars to market some types of cigars as status symbols. Whether it is marketed to those on Park Avenue, or people sleeping on a park bench, no matter the wrap and packaging, cigar smoke is tobacco smoke. It should be avoided because it is addicting and deadly.