Cigar Smoking and Cancer: Get the Facts

People who smoke cigars often say they chose this route to avoid the cancer risks so strongly associated with cigarette smoking. While it’s true lighting up a stogie may not necessarily pose the same lung cancer risk as cigarettes do, that doesn’t mean cigar smokers are free and clear of potential ramifications.

Smoking tobacco – in any form – can dramatically increase the risks for certain forms of cancer. In regard to cigars, here are a few of the more common misconceptions about this habit:

• Cigars don’t cause cancer – That’s just not true. This form of smoking is linked to larynx, esophageal and oral cavity cancer. It may also cause pancreatic cancer and can still cause lung cancer.
• Not inhaling makes it a healthier habit – Cigar smokers typically do not inhale, which is a good thing. That is why cigar smoking is linked to lower rates of coronary heart disease and lung cancer. Even so, cigar smokers are still exposed to cancer-causing chemicals because the smoke still contacts their lips, mouth, throat, larynx and tongue.
• Cigars aren’t addictive – Again, this is one that’s just not true. Cigars still contain high levels of nicotine that are absorbed in the body. The nicotine can get into the body through the inadvertent inhalation of smoke and also through absorption in the lining of the mouth. It’s important to note that one cigar may have as much nicotine as an entire pack of cigarettes.

Cigars are not the “safer” option for consuming tobacco. While they pose a somewhat different set of dangers, peril is still present thanks to chemicals and high levels of nicotine. The best bet for cigar smokers seeking to decrease health-related risks is to talk to their healthcare provider about options for quitting. Nicotine replacement products can prove very useful in some cases. Avoiding tobacco use entirely can dramatically lower risks for cancer and other potentially life-limiting diseases.

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