Viewed as a glamorous luxury by many men and women, cigars are promoted by everyone from sports superstars to top movie stars to upscale clothing stores and clubs. U.S. consumers lit up 5.1 billion cigars in 2005, and sales continue to rise. As cigar connoisseurs are leisurely puffing, they fail to realize that their habit not only hurts their health and smiles but also is addictive and may be more dangerous than cigarettes.
And cigar smoking is not just a habit of older men, but increasingly, of women and teens. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports 14 percent of high-school students are cigar smokers.
"Cigars provide a false sense of security because many people think that they are a safe alternative to cigarettes," says E. "Mac" Edington, DDS, MAGD, and past president of the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD). "Cigars can have up to 40 times the nicotine and tar found in cigarettes."
Dentists are patients' first line of defense against the adverse effects of tobacco use and nicotine addiction stemming from cigars, cigarettes and spit tobacco. Dentists routinely screen for oral cancer and can help patients with tobacco cessation programs.
"Cigars are marketed as an upscale habit of the wealthy," says Robert Mecklenburg, DDS, MPH, dental coordinator, Smoking and Tobacco Control Program of the National Cancer Institute. "They are portrayed as being related to having money, sophistication and an important social image of which people want to be a part. And kids are aware of what adults partake in."
"People think smoking occasional cigars is fine, but smoking cigars increases nicotine levels in the body," says Dr. Mecklenburg. "And an increase in nicotine means an increase in dependence. In addition, tobacco carcinogens place them at risk of mouth and throat cancer."
Other facts about cigar smoking:
Cigar smokers often have badly stained teeth and chronic bad breath.
Cancer death rates among men who smoke cigars are up to 40 percent higher than among non-smokers. Reviewed: January 2012