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Is cigar smoking safer than cigarette smoking?

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Cigars have been known and marketed as symbols of a luxurious and successful lifestyle. Since 1993, cigarette smoking has declined but total consumption of cigars have increased. Part of the reason for this is because a former Surgeon General reported that cigar smoking was a healthier alternative to smoking cigarettes. However, according to organizations such as the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute, cigar smoking is just as harmful, if not more harmful, than cigarette smoking.

Origin and Prevalence

Researchers have conducted studies that show pipe and cigar smoking damage lung function in a manner to cigarettes. Michael B. Steinberg, MD, MPH, of the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School states, "Smoke, whether from cigarette, pipe, or cigar, will result in the absorption of one of the most addictive chemicals known, nicotine, and will produce measurable lung damage." Another researcher and director of the Center for Tobacco Control at Northwell Health, Patricia Folan, states "I would not say that cigars are better than cigarettes -- but quitting is." J. Taylor Hays, M.D., stresses that when people switch from cigarettes to cigars they still inhale the smoke the same way they inhale cigarette smoke. The landmark 1964 surgeon general's report on smoking and health showed the dangers of cigarettes and pointed out cigars are less dangerous compared to cigarettes. The report stated that ''Cigar and pipe smoking were found to have little significance in comparison with cigarettes.''

Issues and Analysis

The claim made by the Surgeon General back in 1964 has been proven false by numerous studies and organizations. According to the National Cancer Institute, cigars and cigarettes both contain toxic chemicals that are harmful to smokers and non-smokers. However, there are a few major differences in the composition of cigars and cigarettes that can make regularly smoking cigars more dangerous than smoking cigarettes. One of these differences is the amount of tobacco. A typical cigarette will contain less than one gram of tobacco, while one large cigar typically contains between 5 to 17 grams. This means that one large cigar could contain as much tobacco as an entire pack of cigarettes. Cigars also contain a significantly higher amount of nicotine than cigarettes. The average nicotine content of a cigarette is about 8.4 milligrams, while cigars can contain anywhere between 100 to 444 milligrams of nicotine. This elevated amount of nicotine can make cigars significantly more addictive to those who regularly smoke them, as nicotine is the chemical found in tobacco that makes it addictive. Also, cigars contain more tar and higher levels of toxins in them than regular cigarettes, making them just as terrible as cigarettes. The last major difference in the chemical composition of cigars and cigarettes is the amount of nitrosamines produced. Nitrosamines are a type of chemical found in tobacco products that can increase the risk of certain cancers in humans. Cigars go through a long fermenting process that creates an increased amount of cancer-causing substances, such as nitrosamines, which are released when the cigar is smoked. As a result of the fermenting process, the levels of nitrosamines are higher in cigar smoke than in cigarette smoke. Regular smoking of cigars can result in increased exposure to higher levels of toxic chemicals as well as lead to serious health problems.

In a multicenter study done in Europe, the results concluded that cigars and other cigar-like products have a carcinogenic effect on the lungs that is comparable to cigarettes. Cigar smokers typically do not inhale cigar smoke, as it's said to be more irritating than cigarette smoke, can lead to lower rates of heart disease, lung cancer, and other lung diseases. However, they are still exposing themselves to harmful chemicals that can give them various types of cancer, such as cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, and larynx. Those who do inhale cigar smoke, it appears to be linked to death from cancer of the pancreas and bladder. Regular cigar smoking can also lead to emphysema, chronic bronchitis, heart disease, coronary artery disease, gum disease, and tooth loss. Cigar smoking is a dangerous habit that can lead to major health problems. They are not safer than cigarettes and can, in fact, be more addictive and deadly for people who smoke them regularly. While it is not fully clear how casual cigar smoking can affect health, it can still be assumed that it is not safe. The Surgeon General was wrong in 1964 when he claimed that cigars are safer than cigarettes, and it is about time that this myth stops being perpetuated.

Works Consulted

"Are Cigars Safer than Cigarettes?" WebMD, WebMD, www.webmd.com/smoking-cessation/qa/

Mundell, E.J. "Study: Cigars, Pipes Not Safer than Cigarettes." UPI, UPI, 20 Feb. 2018,


Hays, J Taylor. "Cigar Smoking: Safer than Cigarette Smoking?" Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical

Education and Research, 13 July 2016, www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/quit-smoking/expert-answers/


"Is Any Type of Smoking Safe?" American Cancer Society, 2015, www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/tobacco-

Kozlowski, Lynn T. "9 Things to Think About When Thinking About Cigars -- Little or Big." HuffPost, HuffPost, 18 July
2013, www.huffpost.com/entry/cigar-smoking-risks_n_3599794?ec_carp=8036408261848690628.

Lecklitner, Ian. "Every Kind of Smoking, Ranked By How Bad It Is For You." MEL Magazine, MEL Magazine, 4 Oct.

2018, melmagazine.com/en-us/story/every-kind-of-smoking-ranked-by-how-bad-it-is-for-you.

Martin, Terry, and Sanja Jelic. "6 Facts About Cigar Smoking and Your Health That Might Surprise You." Verywell
, Dotdash, 6 Dec. 2018, www.verywellmind.com/facts-about-cigar-smoking-2824739.

National Cancer Institute. "Monograph 9: Cigars: Health Effects and Trends." National Cancer Institute, Division of

Cancer Control & Population Sciences, cancercontrol.cancer.gov/brp/tcrb/monographs/9/index.html.

"Questions and Answers About Cigar Smoking and Cancer." Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, 1998,

Warner, Jennifer. "Cigars, Pipes No Safer Than Cigarettes." WebMD, WebMD, 16 Feb. 2010,


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