There is not much difference between cigars and cigarettes in terms of what they can do to your body. Cigars still contain a variety of toxic cancer-causing substances, and the addictive chemical nicotine.
Some people think that cigars are safe because most cigar smokers don't inhale, or because for a long time warning labels were not required. However, cigars are not safe, and in one way cigars are even worse than cigarettes.
Cigars differ from cigarettes in three ways:
Cigars consist of tobacco wrapped in tobacco leaves; cigarettes consist of tobacco wrapped in paper.
Tobacco for cigars is prepared differently from tobacco for cigarettes. This is why cigar smoke smells different from cigarette smoke.
Some, though not all, cigars are much larger than cigarettes.
These differences make cigars look and smell different from cigarettes, but there is not much difference between the two products in terms of what they can do to your body. Like cigarette smoke, cigar smoke contains a wide variety of toxic (poisonous) and cancer-causing substances. Cigar smoking can cause cancer of the mouth, throat, lung, and esophagus (the tube leading from the mouth to the stomach), just as cigarette smoking can. Smoking three or four cigars daily can increase your risk of oral (mouth) cancers to more than eight times the risk of a nonsmoker and increase your chance of getting esophageal cancer to four times that of a nonsmoker. Cigar smoking increases the risk of heart disease and serious lung diseases, just as cigarette smoking does. Cigar smoking also increases the risk and severity of periodontal disease (the gum disease that is responsible for most instances of tooth loss in adults) just as much as cigarette smoking does.
Like cigarettes, cigars contain the addictive substance nicotine. In fact, most cigars have as much nicotine as several cigarettes do. Therefore, you can become addicted to nicotine by smoking cigars, just as you can by smoking cigarettes.
People sometimes think that cigars are safe because most cigar smokers, unlike cigarette smokers, do not inhale the smoke. However, smokers do not have to inhale to increase their risk of serious diseases. Regardless of whether they inhale, smokers expose their mouths and throats to harmful substances in tobacco smoke, swallow some of those substances, and absorb some (including nicotine) through the linings of their mouths. The exposure to harmful substances that occurs in these ways is enough to greatly increase the cigar smoker's risk of serious diseases.
Another reason why some people may think that cigar smoking is safe is that warning labels were not required on cigar packages until the year 2000, even though they were required on cigarettes in the 1960s and on smokeless tobacco in the 1980s. However, this doesn't mean that scientists just found out a few years ago that cigars are dangerous. In fact, it has been known for a long time that cigar smoking is bad for you. But in the 1970s and 1980s, health authorities didn't consider warning labels on cigars to be a high priority because the popularity of cigars was decreasing. Then in the 1990s, when the use of cigars began to increase again, federal health officials decided that a warning was urgently needed. They realized that the failure to have warnings on cigar packages might give smokers the incorrect impression that cigars were a harmless alternative to cigarettes.
Actually, in one way, cigars are even worse than cigarettes. Because of differences in the way that cigars and cigarettes are made, the smoke released into the environment by a burning cigar is even more irritating and unhealthful than the smoke released by a burning cigarette. It's no wonder that many people go out of their way to avoid being in a room where people are smoking cigars!