No, cigar smoking isn’t safer than cigarette smoking- even if you don’t intentionally inhale the smoke. Cigars, like cigarettes, contain nicotine, the substance that can lead to tobacco dependence. Historically, cigar smoking has been a behaviour of older men, but the industry’s increased marketing of these products as symbols of a luxurious and successful lifestyle has increased the prevalence of cigar use, even among adolescents recently. Let’s take a closer look at cigars and how they affect your health.
- A single full-size cigar can contain nearly the same amount of nicotine as a pack of cigarettes. A typical cigarette contains one to two milligrams of nicotine while a cigar contains 100 to 200 milligrams. Nicotine produces pleasing effects in your brain, but these effects are temporary. So you reach for another cigarette or cigar in order to get the same feeling, and soon, the craving or “need” for it will make smoking habitual.
- Nicotine dependence/ addiction. Nicotine, found in tobacco products such as cigars and cigarettes, is a dangerous and highly addictive chemical. The more you smoke, the more nicotine you need to feel good. Nicotine dependence occurs when you need nicotine and can’t stop using it.
- Heart Disease. Cigar smoking can cause an increase in blood pressure, heart rate and a narrowing of the arteries. Nicotine can also contribute to the hardening of the arterial walls, which in turn, may lead to a heart attack.
- Cancer. All tobacco smoke contains chemicals that can cause cancer, and cigar smoke is no exception. Cigar smoking can cause cancers of the lung, oral cavity, larynx and esophagus.
- Lung Damage. Nicotine triggers an increase in free radicals or reactive oxygen species (ROS) which causes oxidative stress and inflammation as well as damage to cell membranes and DNA. The more cigars you smoke or the deeper you inhale, the higher your risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
- Oral disease. Cigar smoking has been linked to oral and dental disease, such as gum disease and tooth loss. Even if you don’t intentionally inhale, large amounts of nicotine can be absorbed through the lining of your mouth.
- Secondhand smoke from cigars contains the same toxic chemicals that secondhand cigarette smoke does. This type of smoke increases the risk and severity of childhood asthma, ear infections, and upper and lower respiratory infections in children. It can also cause or contribute to lung cancer.
The American Cancer Society states that “there is no safe form of tobacco. Staying tobacco free is the best way to protect your health.” Smoking is the one of the most preventable causes of death. Instead of trying to choose between cigarette smoking and cigar smoking, try to quit tobacco entirely.