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25. Are cigars any better?


This article is from the Stop Smoking FAQ, by 70424.57@compuserve.com with numerous contributions by others.

25. Are cigars any better?

[From the on-line page "Ask Dr. Weil," Copyright 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997
HotWired, Inc. All rights reserved. Used without permission]

Cigar consumption is climbing rapidly in the United States, where people
smoked 3 billion cigars last year, compared to 2.1 billion in 1993. Around
the world, cigar makers are especially trying to target women by promoting
their wares as a sign of affluence and sophistication. There are cigar
magazines, cigar bars, and even instructional cigar dinners.

Donald Shopland, coordinator of the smoking and tobacco control program at
the National Cancer Institute, calls the increase in cigar consumption
"astounding" - particularly since it has been in decline for many decades.
Alarmed, the institute plans to issue a report on safety, chemical
composition, advertising, health policies, and other cigar issues in the

I'm not impressed by the sophistication of rolled brown tobacco leaves lit
up in anybody's mouth. If you smoke cigars, you're tripling your risk of
lung cancer compared to not smoking at all. True, cigarette smokers have
nine times the risk of developing lung cancer, so I suppose that's one good
point. Cigar smoke is harsher than cigarette smoke, so most people can't
inhale it deeply enough or often enough to establish the pattern of
chemical dependence on nicotine that makes cigarette smoking so risky. But
if you inhale regularly, the risk is the same as with cigarettes. You are
also increasing the possibility of head and neck cancers, cancer of the
esophagus, and cancer in the oral cavity. If you compare cigars and
cigarettes smoked in equal amounts, the risk of mouth and throat cancer are
the same.

Cancer of the oral cavity is one of the nastiest cancers that can occur, in
many cases causing disfigurement and death. Sigmund Freud smoked 20 cigars
a day and died of tobacco-related oral cancer. Ulysses S. Grant, the 18th
US president, also smoked about that much and died of throat cancer. He
dropped 70 pounds and became addicted to cocaine in his efforts to escape
the pain.

Also, cigar smoke is at least as hazardous to the people around you as
cigarette smoke. In a recent study published in the New England Journal of
Medicine, tobacco use - including cigar smoking - by spouses increased the
risk of lung cancer by 30 percent in people who didn't smoke at all
themselves. Exposure in the workplace and social settings bumped up the
risk even more. Eating fruits and vegetables, or taking supplemental
vitamins, didn't improve matters for the spouses.

A new California Environmental Protection Agency report released after
years of peer review and government scrutiny (and some would say
suppression), blames secondhand tobacco smoke for the deaths of at least
4,700 nonsmoking Californians a year. The report says California smokers
cause between 4,200 and 7,440 deaths from heart attacks and stroke each
year among the people around them, and 360 deaths from lung cancer. Their
secondhand smoke is responsible for up to 3,000 new cases of childhood
asthma annually. Cigar smoke billows out in greater volume and contains
high quantities of unhealthy substances, so it's not an improvement.

There are plenty of healthier ways to satisfy an oral fixation. Try carrots.

Disclaimer: All material provided in the Ask Dr.Weil program is provided
for educational purposes only. Consult your own physician regarding the
applicability of any opinions or recommendations with respect to your
symptoms or medical condition.


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