Dr. Robert Cook - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Robert Cook

Are Cigars Bad For You?

Also Known As: stogies



Short answer

Cigar smoking poses significant health risks, including an increased chance of various cancers, especially oral cancers, heart disease, respiratory conditions, nicotine addiction, and dental problems. The risks extend to occasional use and are similar to cigarette smoking, debunking the myth of cigars being a safer alternative. Non-smokers are also at risk from secondhand smoke, making cigar smoking detrimental to both smokers and those around them.



Long answer

Health Risks Associated with Cigar Smoking

When discussing the impact of cigar smoking on health, it's crucial to dissect the myriad of risks that come bundled with this seemingly leisurely pursuit. Although many view cigars as a symbol of celebration or a luxury to be enjoyed on occasion, it's important to understand how they affect the body. Smoking cigars exposes one's system to numerous toxins and carcinogens, each with its own set of potential health consequences.

Cancer: The most well-documented health risk associated with cigar smoking is an increased likelihood of cancer. Cigars are loaded with nicotine and a bouquet of cancer-causing chemicals, similar to cigarettes. According to the National Cancer Institute, cigar smoke contains higher levels of certain toxic and carcinogenic compounds than cigarette smoke. Cigar smokers are particularly at risk for oral cancers, which include cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, and larynx. Moreover, lung and pancreatic cancers are also of concern. The risk is dose-dependent, meaning the more frequently one smokes cigars, the higher the risk of developing these cancers.

Heart and Respiratory Diseases: Beyond cancer, cigar smoking can lead to serious heart and respiratory diseases. The inhalation of cigar smoke can contribute to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which encompasses conditions like emphysema and chronic bronchitis. It also elevates the risk for heart diseases by affecting blood vessels, increasing blood pressure, and causing other detrimental cardiovascular effects. Even if you don't inhale, the nicotine absorbed through the lining of the mouth can still lead to heightened blood pressure and heart rate.

Addiction Potential: Nicotine dependence is another significant concern. Cigars can contain as much nicotine as several cigarettes, making them potentially addictive. This addiction can usher a smoker into a cycle of dependency that may result in increased usage, further elevating health risks.

Dental Issues: Oral health shouldn’t be overlooked when considering the impacts of cigar smoking. Smokers may suffer from periodontal disease, tooth loss, and tooth discoloration. Bad breath and diminished taste are also common issues that can affect quality of life and social interactions.

Secondhand Smoke: It's not just direct smokers who are affected; secondhand smoke from cigars also poses a health hazard to those nearby. The smoke emitted from a burning cigar and exhaled by the smoker can contribute to the same health issues in non-smokers, particularly among children and adults with preexisting health conditions like asthma.

A Comparison with Cigarettes: While some may argue cigars are a 'safer' alternative to cigarettes, the evidence suggests otherwise. Although cigar smokers may partake less frequently than cigarette smokers, the former tend to smoke products with greater quantities of tobacco and for longer durations. This can lead to extended exposure to harmful substances during a single session. Studies have shown that the health risks associated with occasional cigar smoking can be just as severe as those related to regular cigarette smoking.

In conclusion, from the casual smoker to the aficionado, the risks associated with cigar smoking are substantial and multi-faceted. From increased chances of various cancers to heightened heart and respiratory diseases, along with the potential for nicotine addiction and dental woes, the habit deserves scrutiny. As health professionals continue to stress, the best course for optimal health is to avoid tobacco use altogether. For those hoping to reduce their risk, cessation is the recommended path, with numerous resources available to aid in breaking the cycle of tobacco addiction.

Comparison of Cigar Smoke to Cigarette Smoke

When we delve into the specifics of cigar smoke versus cigarette smoke, we're entering a world where size, content, and usage habits all dramatically change the conversation. Both carry significant health risks, and understanding those risks begins with dissecting how the two compare.

Smoke Content: Cigar smoke and cigarette smoke both contain nicotine, tar, carbon monoxide, and other harmful substances. However, cigars often contain higher levels of these substances. For instance, a single large cigar can contain as much nicotine as an entire pack of cigarettes. This is partly due to the size difference; cigars are bigger and contain more tobacco than cigarettes.

Inhalation Habits: Generally, cigarette smokers tend to inhale the smoke deeply into their lungs, while cigar smokers often keep the smoke in their mouth. This difference in inhalation can impact the types of health issues that arise. Cigar smokers may have a higher risk of developing oral cancers, while cigarette smokers are more at risk for lung cancer. However, it’s important to note that regardless of inhalation style, both methods expose smokers to carcinogens and the risk of cancers in various parts of the body, including laryngeal, esophageal, and pancreatic cancer.

Frequency of Use: Most cigarette smokers usually smoke daily, while cigar smoking is often an occasional activity. Nevertheless, the less frequent use of cigars does not make them safe by default. The occasional, yet heavy, exposure to the concentrated levels of carcinogens in cigar smoke can still be detrimental to health.

Filtration: Unlike most cigarettes, cigars are not typically equipped with filters, which means that cigar smoke can be more concentrated and unfiltered, leading to increased exposure to toxic substances.

Combustion: Cigars burn at a higher temperature than cigarettes. This hotter temperature may lead to the creation of more toxic substances in the smoke.

Duration of Smoking: Smoking a cigar usually takes longer than smoking a cigarette, ranging anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours. As a result, the smoker is exposed to the toxic elements of smoke for a prolonged period when smoking a cigar, versus the 5 to 10 minutes it typically takes to smoke a cigarette.

Secondhand Smoke: Both cigar smoke and cigarette smoke produce secondhand smoke. However, because cigars are larger and smoked for a longer duration, they can emit greater amounts of secondhand smoke over a wider area, posing health risks to those nearby.

In the scientific arena, studies like the one published in "Circulation" demonstrate that the risks associated with smoking cigars might be as high as those associated with cigarette smoking, particularly when it comes to cardiovascular diseases. Another study in the "Journal of the American Dental Association" highlights the significant risks for oral and dental health posed by cigar smoking.

In essence, while there are different patterns of use and composition, both cigar smoke and cigarette smoke contain health-threatening chemicals and should be approached with caution. The risk of cancer, heart disease, and other health issues remains high with both types of tobacco products.

Oral Cancer and Gum Disease Risks in Cigar Smokers

The tradition of cigar smoking may carry an air of sophistication, but it’s important to peel back the layers of this perceived prestige to understand the stark health implications. When it comes to the health of your mouth, cigars are not your friend. Let’s bite into the meat of the matter with some key concerns that arise from cigar smoking: oral cancer and gum disease.

Increased Prevalence of Oral Cancer:

Those aromatic wraps of tobacco have been linked to a heightened risk of various types of oral cancers. This isn’t just a slight uptick in risk; according to a study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association, cigar smokers are at significantly higher risk for oral cancers compared to non-smokers. Cigars contain a multitude of carcinogens – substances known to cause cancer. It’s not just the quantity of cigars you smoke, but also the duration of the habit that contributes to this escalated risk. Even if you don't inhale, the toxic substances have direct contact with the oral cavity, which can lead to cell mutations and, ultimately, cancer.

Gum Disease and Tooth Loss:

Let’s talk about your gums. They are the unsung heroes holding your smile together. Cigar smoke has a devastating impact on these vital tissues. A publication by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) highlights that tobacco products, including cigars, can lead to gum disease by affecting the attachment of bone and soft tissue to your teeth. With compromised gums, the prospect of tooth loss becomes an all too real possibility. Sustained cigar use can lead to persistent gum irritation, receding gum lines, and an unfavorable breeding ground for harmful bacteria that provoke periodontal diseases.

Moreover, experts from the American Dental Association have voiced concerns over cigars as a culprit for delayed wound healing in the oral region. This means that if you’re a cigar smoker who undergoes dental procedures, you’re facing a double whammy: an increased probability of developing complications and a prolonged recovery period.

The Oral Aesthetic Impact:

While not as severe as cancer or gum disease, the aesthetic impact of cigar smoking on oral health cannot be overlooked. Regular smokers often find themselves battling with stained teeth and chronic bad breath – two hallmarks of an unwelcome oral environment. These issues are not merely cosmetic; they are warning signs that the health of your mouth is in jeopardy.

Preventive Measures and Cessation:

What can you do in the face of these risks? The answer is both simple and challenging: cessation. The cessation of cigar smoking is the most effective way to reduce your risk of oral health issues. For those who aren’t ready to quit, reducing the frequency of cigar smoking and practicing excellent oral hygiene can help mitigate some of the risks. Regular dental check-ups and cleanings become even more critical for cigar smokers.

It's worth considering the long-term implications of your cigar habit on your oral health. While it may be a part of your leisure routine, the potential for severe health consequences cannot be ignored. If you're contemplating quitting or have decided to take that step, a healthcare provider can guide you through the process with cessation programs tailored to your needs. Remember, taking care of your oral health today paves the way for a healthier, more vibrant tomorrow.

The Addictive Potential of Nicotine in Cigars

When we think of cigars, images of celebrations or the quintessential picture of relaxation may come to mind. Yet, despite their association with leisure, cigars hold an aspect not as savored: nicotine. As with cigarettes, the nicotine content in cigars can present the risk of addiction. Understanding this risk requires diving into the nature of nicotine and how it affects the body.

Nicotine is a stimulant found in all tobacco products, including cigars. It's worth noting that cigars can contain significantly more tobacco than cigarettes, and thereby, potentially more nicotine. One large cigar might have as much nicotine as a full pack of cigarettes. When you puff on a cigar, nicotine is absorbed through the oral mucosa, a process slower than the lung absorption from cigarette smoking, but no less effective in developing dependency.

  • Nicotine's Effect on the Brain: Once absorbed, nicotine reaches the brain within seconds. It stimulates the release of several neurotransmitters, most notably dopamine, which is associated with feelings of pleasure and reward. This pleasurable sensation can create a psychological and physical yearning for more.
  • Dependency Risk: Regular use of nicotine can lead to tolerance, where the body requires higher amounts or more frequent use to achieve the same effects. This tolerance is a stepping stone toward dependence and addiction.
  • Withdrawal Symptoms: If a habitual cigar smoker tries to quit, they might face withdrawal symptoms like irritability, cravings, depression, anxiety, cognitive and attention deficits, sleep disturbances, and increased appetite. These symptoms can be quite uncomfortable and persuade an individual to continue smoking cigars.

Several studies have indicated the high potential for addiction in tobacco products. The New England Journal of Medicine published a study emphasizing that nicotine is as addictive as heroin and cocaine. Moreover, research in the field of neurobiology of addiction has highlighted that the addictive nature of nicotine does not solely depend on the content but also on how quickly it is delivered to the brain, which can be influenced by the way cigars are smoked.

Interestingly, while cigarette smokers typically inhale deeply to maximize the amount of nicotine absorbed, cigar smokers often smoke for the flavor and the experience, rather than inhaling. However, this doesn't negate the presence or absorption of nicotine. Whether or not the smoke is inhaled fully, nicotine can be absorbed in significant amounts through the oral mucosa, making addiction a real concern.

In conclusion, while the indulgence of an occasional cigar might not lead to addiction for every smoker, the addictive potential of nicotine is a significant concern, especially for regular and heavy users. It's critical to approach cigar smoking with clear awareness of this potential and the broader implications for health. As with any product containing nicotine, moderation and careful consideration are key to preventing dependency.

Secondhand Smoke Dangers from Cigars

The term "secondhand smoke" refers to the smoke that is exhaled by the smoker as well as the smoke given off by the burning end of a cigar, cigarette, or pipe. This isn't just a faintly annoying byproduct of a cigar: it's a serious health concern. You might imagine a cigar as a staple of a celebration or a symbol of life's finer pleasures, but there's more to the story, particularly for those in the vicinity of the smoke.

Cigar smoke, like that from cigarettes, contains a variety of toxic and carcinogenic compounds. Despite a common misconception, cigars are not a safe alternative to cigarettes. They can emit higher levels of secondhand smoke because they are often larger than cigarettes and therefore burn for a longer period of time. Here's what the research tells us about the dangers of secondhand smoke from cigars:

  • Cancer Risks: The National Cancer Institute has found that secondhand smoke from cigars contains toxins and carcinogens that can lead to lung cancer in nonsmokers. Secondhand cigar smoke has been linked to other types of cancers as well, including throat, oral, and esophageal cancers.
  • Respiratory Issues: Frequent exposure to cigar smoke can exacerbate respiratory conditions such as asthma and can lead to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
  • Heart Concerns: According to the American Heart Association, secondhand smoke increases the risk of heart disease by 25-30%. This applies to smoke from all tobacco products, including cigars.
  • Impact on Children: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that children exposed to secondhand smoke may experience severe asthma attacks, respiratory infections, and a greater risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Despite being less frequently talked about than cigarette smoke, secondhand smoke from cigars poses a significant threat to the health of those in the environment where cigars are being enjoyed. Establishments that allow cigar smoking can become particularly concentrated with smoke, especially in areas that lack proper ventilation. Even outdoor exposure is not risk-free, as the smoke can still be inhaled by those nearby.

Moreover, the notion that "premium" or "natural" cigars are less harmful does not hold up under scientific scrutiny. The same harmful compounds are present regardless of the type or quality of the cigar. It's also worth noting that the large size and longer burning time of cigars can result in prolonged exposure to secondhand smoke for those in the vicinity.

For non-smokers and particularly for individuals with pre-existing health conditions, children, and the elderly, the wisest choice is to steer clear of environments where cigar smoke is present. And for those who enjoy cigars themselves, it's crucial to be mindful of the health impacts on friends, family, and even pets who share their environment.

In conclusion, there's a consensus among public health officials and researchers: secondhand smoke from cigars is not merely an annoyance. It's a serious health hazard, contributing to a range of adverse health effects in nonsmokers. As we continue to prioritize wellness in our lives, it's essential to be aware of not only what we personally inhale but also what we exhale into the shared air around us.

Impact of Occasional Cigar Smoking on Overall Health

Occasional cigar smoking, while perceived as a sophisticated and less harmful pastime compared to cigarette smoking, still carries significant health risks. It's important to understand the nuanced effects of this practice on one's overall health.

Firstly, let’s address the idea of "occasional" smoking. This term can vary greatly from person to person; for some, it may mean a cigar at weekly gatherings, while for others it might involve less frequent use, such as monthly or even rarer. Despite this variability, any level of tobacco use has potential health implications.

Cardiovascular Risk: Even with infrequent use, cigars contribute to the risk of heart disease. Cigar smoke contains nicotine, carbon monoxide, and other toxins that can affect heart rate, blood pressure, and inflammation of the heart's arteries. A study cited in the New England Journal of Medicine found that even occasional smokers have notable increased risks for coronary heart disease.

Cancer Risk: Cigars are a significant source of carcinogens, including nitrosamines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. The risk of oral, throat, and esophageal cancers increases even with occasional use, as the body is exposed to these harmful substances. According to the National Cancer Institute, there is no safe level of cigar smoking and even those who do not inhale are still at risk of mouth and esophagus cancers.

Respiratory Health: Occasional cigar smoking may not lead to the chronic respiratory diseases commonly associated with regular cigarette smoking, such as COPD, but it can still impair lung function over time and aggravate conditions like asthma.

Addiction Potential: The intermittent use of cigars can often lead to nicotine addiction. Nicotine is a highly addictive substance and even infrequent exposure can lead to cravings and subsequent increases in consumption patterns over time.

Dental Health: Oral health is also vulnerable to even occasional cigar use, with increased risks of periodontal disease, tooth loss, and tooth discoloration. The American Dental Association warns against the use of any tobacco product, noting the negative impact on overall dental health.

It's understandable that individuals partaking in occasional cigar smoking may feel insulated from the long-term risks associated with regular use. However, it is becoming increasingly clear from ongoing research that any tobacco use can potentially contribute to serious health issues. Balancing health against the perceived social or relaxation benefits of occasional cigar smoking thus becomes a question of personal assessment and priorities, weighing immediate gratification against long-term well-being.

Frequently asked questions

While no inhaled product is completely safe, alternatives like nicotine patches, gum, or lozenges can provide nicotine without smoking risks. For those looking for flavor without nicotine, herbal cigars or electronic cigars that vaporize flavored liquids might be an option, though the long-term effects of vaping are still under investigation.

Yes, even occasional cigar smoking can negatively impact reproductive health in both men and women. For men, it can lead to reduced sperm quality and count, while women may experience consequences like reduced fertility and an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy. Tobacco use has also been associated with complications during pregnancy and may affect fetal development.

Nicotine from cigars can have both immediate and long-term effects on mental health. It may temporarily enhance mood and concentration but can also lead to increased stress, anxiety, and depression over time. Addiction to nicotine can exacerbate these negative effects, making users feel dependent on smoking for stress relief.

Cigar smoking can disrupt the balance of the oral microbiota, leading to an increased prevalence of harmful bacteria associated with periodontal disease. This alteration in the oral microbiome can contribute to dental issues, such as cavities, bad breath, and an increased risk of oral infections.

Ask a question about Cigars and our team will publish the answer as soon as possible.

Possible short-term side effects

  • irritation of mouth and throat
  • bad breath
  • elevated heart rate and blood pressure
  • nicotine addiction
  • secondhand smoke exposure risks

Possible long-term side effects

  • increased risk of various cancers (oral, throat, esophageal, lung, pancreatic)
  • heart diseases
  • respiratory issues like copd
  • gum disease
  • tooth loss and discoloration
  • delayed wound healing in the oral region

Ingredients to be aware of

Healthier alternatives

  • cessation
  • reducing frequency
  • practicing excellent oral hygiene
  • using cessation programs
  • avoiding tobacco use

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Desmond Richard
Published on: 12-05-2023
Last updated: 12-13-2023

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Desmond Richard
Published on: 12-05-2023
Last updated: 12-13-2023

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