Do cigars cause cancer and other diseases?

Yes. Cigar smoking causes cancer of the oral cavity, larynx, esophagus, and lung. It may also cause cancer of the pancreas. Moreover, daily cigar smokers, particularly those who inhale, are at increased risk for developing heart disease and other types of lung disease. Regular cigar smokers and cigarette smokers have similar levels of risk for oral cavity and esophageal cancers. The more you smoke, the greater the risk of disease3.

What if I don’t inhale the cigar smoke?

Unlike nearly all cigarette smokers, most cigar smokers do not inhale. Although cigar smokers have lower rates of lung cancer, coronary heart disease, and lung disease than cigarette smokers, they have higher rates of these diseases than those who do not smoke cigars.

All cigar and cigarette smokers, whether or not they inhale, directly expose their lips, mouth, tongue, throat, and larynx to smoke and its toxic and cancer-causing chemicals. In addition, when saliva containing the chemicals in tobacco smoke is swallowed, the esophagus is exposed to carcinogens. These exposures probably account for the similar oral and esophageal cancer risks seen among cigar smokers and cigarette smokers3.


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Are cigars addictive?

Yes. Even if the smoke is not inhaled, high levels of nicotine (the chemical that causes addiction) can still be absorbed into the body. A cigar smoker can get nicotine by two routes: by inhalation into the lungs and by absorption through the lining of the mouth. Either way, the smoker becomes addicted to the nicotine that gets into the body.

A single cigar can potentially provide as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes1.

Are cigars less hazardous than cigarettes?

Because all tobacco products are harmful and cause cancer, the use of these products is strongly discouraged. There is no safe level of tobacco use. People who use any type of tobacco product should be encouraged to quit. 

For help with quitting, see the National Cancer Institute (NCI) fact sheet Where To Get Help When You Decide To Quit Smoking on the Internet.

Do nicotine replacement products help cigar smokers to quit?

Nicotine replacement products, or nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), deliver measured doses of nicotine into the body, which helps to relieve the cravings and withdrawal symptoms often felt by people trying to quit smoking. Strong and consistent evidence shows that NRT can help people quit smoking cigarettes4.

Limited research has been completed to determine the usefulness of NRT for people who smoke cigars. For help with quitting cigar smoking, ask your doctor or pharmacist about NRT, as well as about individual or group counseling, telephone quitlines, or other methods.

How can I get help quitting smoking?

NCI and other agencies and organizations can help smokers quit:

  • Go online to Smokefree.gov (http://www.smokefree.gov), a Web site created by NCI’s Tobacco Control Research Branch, and use the Step-by-Step Quit Guide.
  • Call NCI’s Smoking Quitline at 1–877–448–7848 (1–877–44U–QUIT) for individualized counseling, printed information, and referrals to other sources.
  • Refer to the NCI fact sheet Where To Get Help When You Decide To Quit Smoking at http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/tobacco/help-quitting on the Internet.

Selected References
  1. Baker F, Ainsworth SR, Dye JT, et al.  Health risks associated with cigar smoking.  Journal of the American Medical Association 2000; 284(6):735–740.  [PubMed Abstract]
  2. Kozlowski LT, Dollar KM, Giovino GA.  Cigar/cigarillo surveillance:  Limitations of the U.S. Department of Agriculture System.  American Journal of Preventive Medicine 2008; 34(5):424–426.  [PubMed Abstract]
  3. National Cancer Institute (1998).  Smoking and Tobacco Control Monograph 9:  Cigars:  Health Effects and Trends.  Bethesda, MD.  Retrieved October 21, 2010, from:  http://www.cancercontrol.cancer.gov/tcrb/monographs/9/index.html.
  4. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  Reducing Tobacco Use:  A Report of the Surgeon General.  Atlanta, GA:  U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Office on Smoking and Health, 2000.

Source: National Cancer Institute