Cigar Smoking Trends and Risk Factors

man smoking cigarillo
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As of Dec. 20, 2019, the new legal age limit is 21 years old for purchasing cigarettes, cigars, or any other tobacco products in the U.S.

It used to be that cigar smoking was an activity that attracted older men, primarily. It was also a custom in the United States for new fathers to pass cigars out to their male friends when their baby was born. 

Why More People Are Smoking Cigars

Certainly, these niches still exist, but young Americans are picking up cigar smoking in increasing numbers today. This growing trend can be attributed to a few factors.

1) Cigars are not taxed as heavily as cigarettes. In some areas in the United States, a pack of cigarettes costs $10 or more, making them difficult to afford on a regular basis.

2) Cigars are sold in a few different forms, one of which is about the same size as a traditional cigarette. They're called little cigars and are sold in packs, just like cigarettes. Additionally, some of them have flavorings added, appealing to younger smokers. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a poll of middle and high school students in 2014 revealed that 63% who had smoked a cigar in the last 30 days had smoked a flavored type.

3) The tobacco industry's efforts to glamorize cigar smoking 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, but it's not.

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

You Can Become Addicted to Cigars

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 Can Cause Cancer

Numerous cancers are associated with cigar smoking:

  • Oral cancer, including cancers of the lip, tongue, mouth.
  • Throat cancer
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Lung cancer – the risk is less than that of cigarette smokers because most people do not inhale cigar smoke. It has been found, however, that current and former cigarette smokers are more likely to inhale cigar smoke.
  • Cancer of the pancreas
  • Bladder cancer

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

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

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% 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.

Contributes to Lung Disease

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% greater risk of COPD than that of nonsmokers.

Bad for Your Oral Health

There is evidence showing that cigar and pipe smoking may also lead to early tooth loss according to a study published in 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% more likely to lose their teeth than nonsmokers. Pipe smokers were 60% more likely to suffer early tooth loss than nonsmokers. Cigar and pipe smokers are also at an increased risk for alveolar bone loss.

A Word From Verywell

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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