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Date of last update: 10/21/2017.

Forum Name: Miscellaneous Cancer Topics

Question: Risk of cancer with occasional cigars

 csrevenant - Wed Dec 09, 2009 5:05 pm


I have been known to have the occasional cigar or cigarillo. Are my chances of cancer appreciably greater?

A little background:

No more than 1 or 2 a month
I do not inhale, nor smoke indoors, or where there is poor ventilation
Never smoked cigarettes, or any tobacco on a regular basis

I realize that any tobacco exposes me to carcinogens, nicotine, tar, etc, but we are exposed to radiation, smoke, and carcinogens daily, but these do not seem to have much affect on cancer risks.

So what do you think?

Many thanks,

 Dr.M.Aroon kamath - Mon Dec 14, 2009 1:38 am

User avatar Hi,
- Cigarette smoking is related to many types of cancer.

- Ill effects are related to how much a person smokes(called as 'pack years).One way of calculating pack years is as follows.
Number of pack years = (number of cigarettes smoked per day x number of years smoked)/20 (1 pack has 20 cigarettes).

- Cigarette smoking + alcohol further increases the risk- esp, for cancers of the aero-digestive tract.

Cigarette smoke contains many (may be as many as 250) chemicals of which roughly 20% are considered carcinogenic. Some of these are from the tobacco ad others from the paper.

A cigar has been defined, as "any roll of tobacco wrapped in leaf tobacco or in any substance containing tobacco," while a cigarette is "any roll of tobacco wrapped in paper or any substance not containing tobacco". Unlike most cigarettes, larger cigars do not usually have a filter. Smaller ones may have a filter.

Large cigars(cigarillos) may contain more than a half an ounce of tobacco. This is as much tobacco as a whole pack of cigarettes. It can take from 1 to 2 hours to smoke a large cigar.

Most cigarettes contain an average of approximately (8 mg) of nicotine, but only deliver about 1 - 2 mg of nicotine to the smoker. Many popular cigar brands contain 100 - 200 mg, or even nearly as much as 450 mg of nicotine.

The amount of nicotine a cigar delivers to a smoker can vary a lot based on....
- the brand,
- the size,
- number of puffs,
- inhaled or otherwise &
- how deeply?

All these variables complicate the calculation of 'Pack years' in relation to cigar smoking.

Thus, cigars deliver the same nicotine as the cigarettes and therefore, are harmful.

Ofcourse one is exposed to certain amount of 'background' radiation and other carcinogens (some of which are for practical reasons unavoidable).Smoking is knowingly/voluntarily exposing oneself to carcinogens.

Best wishes!
 Dr. Ramy M. El-Helw - Tue Feb 23, 2010 12:01 pm

This is an interesting question that I am always presented with. First and foremost, it is understood that cigars are not inhaled like a traditional cigarette, but that doesn’t make a cigar a healthier alternative.

Cigars, no matter which brand or filter type or lack there of contain very toxic carcinogenictic chemicals that are very harmful to the person smoking the cigar, or to the non smoker who happens to be in the same facility.

I want to add to this list the smoking of “hooka, or water bongs” that have started to become more popular especially within the college crowd. There are tons of misconceptions about this new past time. Many people decide to quit smoking and take up the smoking of hooka as an alternative. This is a very bad practice and does not differ in severity. Hooka or water pipes cause a whole series of other sicknesses plus the traditional sicknesses and side effects of your traditional cigarette or cigar.

All tobacco products infact expose the lips along with every component of your mouth, larynx and esophagus to toxic chemicals which increases your chances of developing cancer. The more you smoke, the more your chances of developing a cancer related complication will elevate.

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