The fact that smoking is linked to cancer and heart disease is no secret. In fact, you may have made the switch to cigars from cigarettes thinking it will help you cut down, minimize your chances of cancer or health issues in the future, and that they may be even better for you since you don’t inhale cigar smoke like you do with cigarettes.
Many people mistakenly believe that the risks of cigar smoking are less than that of cigarette smoking, but unfortunately, this isn’t accurate. Smoking a cigar is no safer than smoking a cigarette.
The reason that cigarettes are easier to inhale is the fact that they possess a lower chemical additive content, which lowers the temperature of the cigarette and is what allows you to inhale easily, without any discomfort. Cigars are much bigger than a standard cigarette and because of this, they tend to run hotter. If inhaled quickly, cigars can damage the lungs. If you’re a new cigar smoker, then you’ve probably experienced your share of coughing fits which can leave you gasping for breath, causing mild chest pain and a sore throat.
A cigarette smoker who has switched from cigars will have a natural tendency to inhale the cigar smoke. Ex-smokers will have a high tolerance for nicotine, especially if they were a heavy smoker in the past. This means they will also be more likely to smoke an entire cigar in one sitting. Cigarette smoke is better absorbed in the lungs than in the mouth because it’s more acidic, while cigar smoke is absorbed more so in the membranes in the mouth since it’s more alkaline.
Why You Should Never Inhale
Inhaling isn’t necessary or recommended when you’re smoking a premium cigar. If you think inhaling is the only way you can get your nicotine fix when you smoke a cigar, then you’ll be surprised to learn that the nicotine is instantly absorbed in the membranes in the mouth, not in the lungs. This means you don’t have to inhale to absorb all the nicotine you need. Studies have shown us that the nicotine content in aged cigars is significantly lower compared to cigarettes. This is because the longer a cigar is allowed to age, the more nicotine is dissipated, which is another reason why the smoke from the cigar is more efficiently absorbed by the palate. Of course, if you purchase low-quality cigars, that have not been allowed to age for very long, then you can anticipate a much higher nicotine content compared to cigarettes or cigars that have been allowed to age.
What is Retro-Inhaling?
This is the process of expelling smoke, allowing it to pass through the nasal cavity and through the olfactory receptors as it exits the body. To refer to it as blowing smoke out through the nose is somewhat misleading since cigarette smokers are also able to exhale smoke via the nasal cavity. If you want to fully enjoy your cigar, you must pull the smoke into your mouth gently and allow your palate to pick up the different flavors, then slowly release the smoke out of your nose or mouth. You can try retro-inhaling whenever you feel the need for an extra dose of nicotine.
The whole point of smoking a cigar is to de-stress and relax as you enjoy the rich aromas and flavor. So, do your best to avoid inhaling. You may find that by simply rolling the smoke around in your mouth you have more appreciation for the cigar’s unique flavor, and you’ll also avoid a headache, sore throat, and nausea, which can occur if you’re hit with too much nicotine.
Know the Difference
Is there really a safe smoking alternative? The answer is no. There is no type of smoking option that can minimize your risk of health issues in the future. But most people don’t know the differences between cigars or cigarettes or what can potentially make cigar smoking a poor choice, especially for the ex-smoker who is trying to make better health choices. There are some major differences between a cigar and a cigarette, aside from the obvious, which is the size.
Below you’ll find some of the key differences between cigarettes and cigars, which can clear up any misconceptions you may have concerning whether or not cigar smoking is a healthier option.
To start, the majority of cigar smokers do not inhale cigar smoke. Furthermore, many cigar enthusiasts will not smoke a cigar daily, unlike the cigarette smoker who will smoke several times a day.
It’s these very differences in smoking habits that explain why many cigar smokers believe that cigar use is much safer. It’s true that a cigar smoker will be less exposed to the carcinogens and poisons that are present in cigarettes. It’s also why there is a significant difference in cigar smoking-related deaths compared to cigarette smokers.
However, there are more important facts about smoking that you need to learn, which can help you to determine the risks, what changes you may need to make, and how smoking daily can have an impact on your health.
Tobacco and Nicotine Content
There’s no doubt that smoking a cigar tastes much better than lighting up a cigarette, however, it may not be the healthy alternative that you think it is.
To start, a single cigar can contain as much tobacco as a whole pack of cigarettes. This will ultimately depend on cigar sizes and shapes. Larger cigars obviously contain a higher amount of tobacco compared to a torpedo or cigarillo.
One cigarette contains less than one gram of tobacco. A single cigar can contain as much as four to eighteen grams of tobacco.
Like cigarettes, smoking a cigar is addictive. The smoke breaks down in the saliva, which allows the smoker to absorb the nicotine via the lining of the mouth. The mouth is able to absorb a high level of nicotine, enough to cause addiction. This is true even if you don’t inhale the smoke. The nicotine content level in one cigar can be several times greater compared to the content found in one cigarette.
One cigarette contains two milligrams of nicotine. In a cigar, the nicotine content is one hundred to two hundred milligrams. Some cigars can possess as much as four hundred milligrams of nicotine.
Did you know that cigar smoke is more toxic and concentrated compared to cigarette smoke? This is due to the manufacturing process for cigars, which requires a fermentation process. During this period, the high concentrations of nitrosamines are produced. These nitrosamines are considered some of the most carcinogenic compounds on the planet.
Smoking one cigar a day can increase your risk of cancer and it’s been linked to a variety of different types of cancers, such as cancer of the oral cavity, which includes the larynx, throat, mouth, tongue, and lip. If you’re guilty of inhaling, then you’re also at an increased risk of developing cancers of the lung, heart, bladder, and pancreas.
Tooth loss is also common in cigar smokers. In 1999 a study published discovered that cigar smokers were at a higher risk of early tooth loss compared to nonsmokers. Cigar smokers are also at an increased risk of bone loss.
Cigar smoke can lead to erectile dysfunction. A cigar smoker is twice as likely to experience erectile dysfunction compared to nonsmokers because of the adverse effects that smoking has on the nervous system, hormones, and circulation. Exposure to secondhand smoke and smoking can both be significant risk factors for erectile dysfunction.
Cancer Risks and Facts
As I mentioned earlier, the cigar smoker is still at risk of cancer, despite the fact that many don’t inhale the smoke. While a cigar may smell and taste much different than a cigarette, they still possess many of the same types of cancer-causing toxins and can possess higher concentrations.
If you smoke a cigar daily, then you are five to ten times more likely to die from esophageal or oral cancers compared to a nonsmoker.
Just like cigarette smoking, the more cigars you smoke, the greater your risk of cancer. Smoking has been linked to a higher risk of several types of cancers, including the following:
- Myeloid leukemia
Tobacco contains more than four thousand chemicals. Fifty of these chemicals are cancerous, while two hundred and fifty of the chemicals used can be harmful in other ways.
These health effects include:
Smoking any type of tobacco product, including a cigar, will increase your risks of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema, and chronic bronchitis. Currently, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is the 4th leading cause of death in America. Unfortunately, smoking is responsible for eighty percent of all cases. A smoker is twelve times more likely to die from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease compared to a nonsmoker.
Cigar smoking can also trigger asthma attacks and can also worsen the symptoms and severity of these attacks in people who have been diagnosed with asthma.
Constant exposure to cigar smoke can damage the blood vessels and the heart. This means an increased risk of stroke, heart attack, and heart disease. Additionally, smoking is also a huge risk factor for peripheral artery disease. This disease causes plaque to build up in the arteries, which can result in:
- Blood clots
- Higher risk of other vascular diseases
- Reduction in stamina
Regular tobacco use can lead to addiction. Even if you smoke regularly and don’t inhale, the nicotine is still able to be absorbed into your bloodstream via your lungs and the lining in the mouth. Nicotine is the addictive chemical in tobacco and it’s what triggers an increase in dopamine and causes a rush of adrenaline. All types of tobacco products, even the now popular smokeless tobacco, lead to psychological and physical addiction.
Ongoing Dental Issues
While smoking cigars can definitely increase your risk of oral cancer, it can also cause a number of dental issues including:
- Stained teeth
- Gum disease
- Damaged gum tissue
- Bad breath
- Receding gums
- Plaque and tartar buildup
- Increased sensitivity to cold and hot
- Slow healing dental work
Smoking can impact both female and male reproduction. It can harm the sperm count, increasing the risk of infertility. It can also negatively interfere with a woman’s ability to get pregnant.
During pregnancy, the use of tobacco can increase the risk of:
- Birth defects
- Ectopic pregnancy
- Placental abruption
Are Cigars Safer?
To sum up the differences between these two tobacco products:
- Cigarettes are uniform in size and will typically contain one gram or less of tobacco. In America, smokes are made out of different blends of tobacco. This tobacco is not fermented like tobacco in cigars. A cigarette can also take just five to seven minutes to smoke depending on the length.
- Most cigars are made out of one type of tobacco, which is fermented and air-cured. This type of smoke also has a tobacco cigar wrapper. Cigars vary in shape and size, containing a significantly higher content of tobacco compared to cigarettes.
In America, there are a few common sizes of cigars sold:
- Large cigars can measure in over seven inches in length and often contain around fifteen to twenty grams of tobacco. Higher-quality cigars can contain the tobacco equivalent of an entire pack of smokes. A large cigar can also take more than an hour to smoke.
- A cigarillo is a very small cigar that’s only slightly bigger than cigarettes. These cigars only contain around three grams of tobacco.
- Little cigars are the same shape and size of cigarettes and are usually packaged just like them. These cigars will only contain a gram of tobacco. Unlike their large counterparts, some types of little cigars will come with a filter, which makes smokers think they can be smoked just like a cigarette.
A Deeper Look at the Cigar Makeup
Cigars are basically clumps of aged tobacco that are wrapped in more tobacco. As you know by now, higher-priced cigars can contain as much tobacco as an entire pack of cigarettes. Additionally, since the wrapper on the cigar is not porous like the paper used to wrap the tobacco on cigarettes, the tobacco in a cigar can smoulder. This type of slower burn will release a variety of compounds that are significantly more dangerous compared to cigarette smoke. Cigar smoke is often loaded with ammonia, carbon monoxide, and tar.
Despite the fact that you don’t inhale, or even if you take small puffs, you’re still exposing the delicate tissues in the mouth and throat with a wide variety of cancer-causing chemicals. Just smoking one cigar a day can double your risk of cancer. If you smoke more than two a day, you can increase your risks dramatically.
Smokers who draw the smoke into their lungs have a very high risk of developing cancer later down the line. In fact, a deep inhaler is around five times more likely to die of lung cancer compared to a nonsmoker.
We now know that smoking a cigar can be just as deadly as smoking a cigarette, especially if you’re a former cigarette smoker and tend to inhale cigar smoke. If you’re a smoker, then you already know there really is no safe way to smoke, but some may believe that there are safer smoking methods out there. Many cigar smokers are former cigarette smokers who have made the switch in the hope that smoking cigarettes would be a safer option.
It’s true that in some instances, smoking a cigar can be safer than smoking a cigarette, however, in general, the cigar smoker doesn’t experience any decrease in risk.
Cigar use will send nicotine to the brain, even if you don’t inhale, due to their chemical makeup. Cigarettes must be inhaled in order to send the nicotine to the brain. A person who smokes cigarettes and has switched to cigars will typically continue to inhale and will most likely smoke more than one cigar a day, compared to a cigar smoker who has never smoked a cigarette. A cigarette smoker who switches to a daily cigar and who inhales shouldn’t anticipate minimizing their health risks by making the switch to cigars since they will smoke more and inhale.
If you talk to a smoker and ask how deeply they inhale, most won’t have any clue concerning the depth of inhalation. They simply know whether they inhale or not. A cigar smoker must be very mindful of inhaling and not believe doing so is okay, just as long as they don’t inhale deeply.
Are Small Cigars Safer?
No. While they’re smaller, they can be the worst choice for the ex-cigarette smoker. These small cigars can come equipped with a filter and have a shape and length that’s almost identical to a cigarette. But because the smoker believes they won’t end up inhaling, they still think they’re cutting their risk of smoking-related diseases, especially if they cut back on how much they smoke daily. Unfortunately, these smaller cigars are much easier to inhale compared to bigger cigars and feel very similar to that of a cigarette in terms of size, but the amount of damage these little cigars can cause, especially if you inhale, should be evident immediately. The tobacco in these small cigars is very powerful and can lead to trouble breathing and a sore throat the day after you’ve gone overboard and smoked more than two. This can easily happen if you’re an ex-cigarette smoker who had a smoking habit of a pack or more a day.
Smoking cigars daily and inhaling can be a major health risk. While smoking cigars only can be less dangerous compared to smoking cigarettes only, with daily use and inhalation, the health risks become more comparable to the heavy cigarette smoker. This is especially true if you prefer larger cigars since they’re the ones that contain the most tobacco, nicotine, and chemical content. Never inhale a large cigar. Instead, take a small puff and allow the smoke to remain in your mouth for three to five seconds while you enjoy the flavor. Then, gently blow the smoke out. Rotate and puff your cigar every thirty to sixty seconds for the most flavor.
Can You Reduce Your Risks?
The only way you can significantly reduce the risks linked to smoking is to quit completely, but if you’re not ready to give up, then there are some things you can do that may help.
- For starters, switch to a thinner cigar. Thinner cigars contain fewer chemicals and less nicotine.
- Cut down on how many cigars you smoke a day. If you’re prone to smoking a couple of large cigars, cut that down to half. Smoke one cigar a day and put it out once it reaches the halfway mark. Relight it later on, when you would normally smoke your second cigar. If you have the best cigar cutter, such as the Top Teng Cutter, all you have to do is cut off the end of the cigar to help reduce some of the burned tobacco taste. This type of cutter has a sharper edge so you can easily salvage your old cigar and relish it later in the day.
- Smoke outside. While it’s true that smoking indoors by the fire or while watching your favorite program can be more relaxing, smoking outdoors will be better for everyone’s health. If your part of the country is known for its harsh winters, smoking outside only can also help you to cut down on how much and how often you smoke.
Now that you know the risks of cigar smoking, you may decide to make some important changes to how many cigars you smoke, how often you smoke, and maybe even the types of cigars you smoke. While you don’t have to give up your favorite hobby, smoking in moderation can minimize your risks of health complications later down the line and can also make you appreciate your cigar more, considering how much you’ve cut down on smoking. With some simple changes you can continue to enjoy your daily cigar, but keep in mind that moderation is key.