Cigars are smoking products containing air-cured tobacco in a wrapper. Cigars are generally larger than cigarettes and contain from 1 g to 20 g of tobacco. Like other types of tobacco, cigars contain addictive nicotine and a variety of toxic chemicals known to cause disease. Learning about the side effects of cigars allows smokers to make informed decisions about their health.
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Cigar smoking puts users at risk for many of the same diseases as cigarette and pipe smoking. While most cigar smokers don’t inhale deeply, the smoke from cigars may still reach the lungs, causing irritation and inflammation. Over time, cigar smoking may lead to chronic bronchitis, emphysema and other lung diseases, according to the American Lung Association.
Secondhand smoke from cigars can cause similar problems in nonsmokers who are frequently exposed. Heavy smokers and those who inhale deeply are at the greatest risk for developing lung disease.
Like cigarettes and other tobacco products, cigars contain a variety of chemicals known to cause cancer in humans. The Environmental Protection Agency lists lead, arsenic and radioactive polonium 210 among the many harmful compounds in tobacco smoke. According to the National Institutes of Health, cigar smoking causes cancer of the lung, esophagus, mouth, larynx and pancreas. The number of cigars smoked daily and the length of one's smoking habit influence the risk of developing cancer.
In addition, the larger size and higher tobacco content of cigars may expose smokers to even higher levels of toxic chemicals than cigarettes, increasing the risk for certain types of cancer even more.
Smoking is a known risk factor for heart disease. Tobacco smoking raises blood pressure, constricts blood vessels and speeds the heart rate, putting undue strain on the cardiovascular system. The National Institutes of Health states that cigar smoking increases the risk of death from coronary heart disease, making it an important avoidable risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
Symptoms of coronary heart disease include chest pain, shortness of breath, fatigue and general weakness. Left untreated, heart disease can result in heart attack, stroke and heart failure.
Addiction and Withdrawal
Cigars contain nicotine, a highly addictive drug found in all tobacco products. Nicotine is a central nervous system stimulant belonging to the same class of drugs as cocaine and amphetamines. The nicotine in cigar smoke is absorbed quickly through the mouth and lungs, where it enters the bloodstream and reaches the brain to cause addiction.
According to the American Cancer Society, one full-size cigar can contain as much nicotine as several cigarettes. Attempting to quit smoking cigars after prolonged use often results in withdrawal symptoms that make it hard to quit. Irritability, anxiety, inability to concentrate and strong cravings for tobacco are among the many symptoms of nicotine withdrawal.