6 Surprising Facts About Cigar Smoking

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

cigar smoking health risks
Illustration by Brianna Gilmartin, Verywell

Cigar Smoking vs. Cigarette Smoking

There are a couple of key differences between smoking cigars and cigarettes:

  • 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 habits explain why cigar smokers are generally exposed to less of the poisons and carcinogens present in cigars than cigarette smokers are too similar toxins in cigarettes. It's also why there are fewer instances of cigar smoking-related disease and death than we typically see with cigarettes.

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

Key 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. Some cigars contain as much as 400 milligrams of nicotine.

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 of some of the toxic chemicals in cigars than in cigarettes.

4. Smoking as little as one cigar a day increases the risk of 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 secondhand smoke, in particular, have been shown to be significant risk factors for erectile dysfunction.

Can Nicotine Replacement Therapy Help Cigar Smokers Quit?

There hasn't been a lot of research done on the effectiveness of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) as a quit aid for cigar smokers. However, if you feel that you've become physically dependent on cigars, you might be addicted to nicotine and NRTs could potentially help. Have a discussion with your doctor about quitting and work out a plan that suits you best.

A Word From Verywell

Remember, there is no such thing as a "safe" tobacco product. 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.

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Article Sources

  1. Chang CM, Corey CG, Rostron BL, Apelberg BJ. Systematic review of cigar smoking and all cause and smoking related mortality. BMC Public Health. 2015;15:390. doi:10.1186/s12889-015-1617-5

  2. Claus ED, Moeller BC, Harbour D, et al. Use Behaviors, Dependence, and Nicotine Exposure Associated with Cigar Smoking. Tob Regul Sci. 2018;4(1):548-561. doi:10.18001/TRS.4.1.2

  3. American Cancer Society. Is Any Type of Smoking Safe? 2019.

  4. Krall EA, Garvey AJ, Garcia RI. Alveolar bone loss and tooth loss in male cigar and pipe smokers. J Am Dent Assoc. 1999;130(1):57-64.

  5. Harte CB, Meston CM. Acute effects of nicotine on physiological and subjective sexual arousal in nonsmoking men: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. J Sex Med. 2008;5(1):110-21. doi:10.1111/j.1743-6109.2007.00637.x

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