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Put out the stogie: cigar smoking and cancer


Whether you are using cigarettes, chewing tobacco, cigars or e-cigarettes; you put your health at risk.

Contributed by Kim Zapor, R.N., BSN, OCN, CBCN, U-M Cancer AnswerLine

Cigarette smoking in the United States has decreased 34% since 2000. However, the rate of cigar smoking has increased 124% in that same timeframe. Cigar culture is huge, and marketing over the last decade and a half has increased the popularity. There are cigar bars, shops, magazines and even cigar festivals. Cigars come in many shapes and sizes: robusto, Churchill, Corona, cigarillos, and cheroots to name a few.

There’s a certain mystique to cigar smoking, and we even associate famous personalities with cigars, like George Burns, Bill Cosby and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

What many people don’t know is that one large cigar can contain as much tobacco as an entire pack of cigarettes, and because they contain nicotine, they are addictive. Cigar smoking can increase your risk of developing lung, oral, lip, and throat cancer. Other adverse health effects include heart disease, stroke and lung disease like emphysema.

Nicotine is addictive, and research suggests it can be as addictive as heroin, cocaine and alcohol.

"I don't inhale" is a common statement among cigar users. However, nicotine has two ways of being absorbed: inhalation through the lungs and absorption through the lining of the mouth. Because there is direct contact with the lips, mouth, tongue and throat, these areas are exposed to the cancer causing chemicals.

Here some tips to help you get started in kicking the nicotine habit.

  • Set a date and start cutting back prior to that date
  • List the reasons why you want to quit
  • Tell others that you are quitting
  • Identify triggers: stress, certain social situations, drinking coffee or alcohol
  • Find other activities like walking, or pursuing a new hobby or interest
  • Join a smoking cessation program

Learn more about the risk of nicotine and tobacco products and how to quit the habit: