This story actually surprised me a little bit, because prior studies had suggested that cigarettes were actually more dangerous than cigars because cigarette tobacco is a different kind of tobacco from cigar tobacco, and it is also cured differently. Allan Brandt also talked about this somewhat in his excellent book, “The Cigarette Century.”
(Part of where this idea comes from is people smoked cigars all through the 18th century, but it wasn’t until the 1930s that there was a huge uptick in lung cancer cases — roughly about 30 years after cigarettes started becoming popular in the early 1900s.)
The latest study done by the FDA contradicts this notion, showing no tangible difference in the danger from cigarette smoke and cigar smoke.
From a Medical Daily article:
“The results reinforce the fact that cigar smoking carries many of the same health risks as cigarette smoking,” lead researcher from the FDA Cindy Chang said in a statement. “Cigar smoking is linked to fatal oral, esophageal, pancreatic, laryngeal, and lung cancers, as well as heart disease and aortic aneurysm.”
Chang and her colleagues combed through 22 studies from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Denmark, Sweden, and Finland that focused on cigar smoking, smoking-related mortality, and all-cause mortality. The studies focused primarily on white men from North America and Europe in the 1960s or earlier. Researchers assessed the health risks for cigar smokers and compared them to people with no history of cigarette smoking or people who have never used tobacco.
People who smoked only cigars and had never smoked any other tobacco products still stood a higher risk for all-cause mortality. Risk for death caused by oral, esophageal, and lung cancers increased significantly after a person started smoking cigars, even if they reported not inhaling cigar smoke. People who smoked cigarettes before picking up cigars were at a significantly higher risk for lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) compared to those who smoked cigars exclusively.
I found some other links that state that cigarettes do seem to be more dangerous as far as causing COPD than just cigars.
What’s worrisome about this story is that cigar use is up — wayyy up. I believe part of the reason why is people are thinking cigars are safer than cigarettes. (The increase in cigar use has correlated with a sharp decline in smoking.) Cigar use has doubled in the U.S. from 6.2 billion in 2000 to 13.7 billion in 2011.
One thing to keep in mind about cigars is that they contain considerably more tobacco than a cigarette. According to the Centers for Disease Control, one cigar contains as much tobacco as an entire pack of cigarettes. So, even if you just smoke one cigar a day, you’re consuming as much tobacco as 20 cigarettes.