January 2, 2020


Tobacco by any name would still be poison.

Peter N. Landless & Zeno L. Charles-Marcel

Q:I am a cigarette smoker transitioning to vaping. My father, a cigar smoker, says that cigars give all the pleasure of smoking without the risk. Are cigars safer than cigarettes?

A:The short answer is: no. Cigars are rolls of tobacco wrapped in tobacco leaf or tobacco-infused paper; cigarettes are chemically treated tobacco wrapped in paper. Premium cigars use aged, fermented, additive-free tobacco. Cigars burn slowly, and, according to some researchers, the nonporousness of the wrapping may produce smoke that is more dangerous than cigarette smoke. “Little cigars” look like cigarettes in size, shape, and packaging, and may even have a filter attached, but they are taxed at a lower rate, making them less expensive.

In the United States, cigars are marketed as symbols of sophistication, luxury, and successful lifestyle; and cigar smoking is often linked to high-end consumer drugs such as expensive alcohol and specialty coffees. Cigars are traditionally offered by individuals who are celebrating a special occasion, such as the birth of a child, and to individuals who have achieved a milestone socially or professionally. Both cigars and cigarettes are often considered stress-relievers. Cigars may even have aromatic flavors, but we should not be fooled: tobacco kills, and cigars are tobacco.

A very robust analysis of 22 studies showed that ongoing, exclusive cigar smoking with no history of previous cigarette or pipe smoking was associated with increased death from any cause; cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, lung, and pancreas; and increased risk of potentially fatal heart and blood vessel diseases. The number of cigars smoked per day and the degree of inhalation of the cigar smoke strongly correlated with oral, esophageal, laryngeal, and lung cancers. Even those who did not inhale had highly elevated associated risk of dying from oral, esophageal, and laryngeal cancers.

Tobacco in all forms contains the highly addictive stimulant drug nicotine. The average smoker absorbs about two miligrams of nicotine per cigarette smoked. The typical cigar contains about seven times the amount of tobacco compared to the average cigarette. But while most cigar smokers don’t inhale, prior cigarette smoking makes a person more likely to inhale.

Although you did not ask about your vaping, we want you to know that the chemicals in the e-liquid have been linked to death.

Your best course of action, then, is not to switch to vaping, which is dangerous and addictive, but rather to eliminate these dangerous chemicals from your life and be free. Adopt a new pattern of naturally stimulating life-giving or lifesaving activities rather than the artificial, chemically induced life-taking ones: vaping and smoking. Start training for a triathlon; engage in short-term missions; join a band or singing group and listen to melodic instrumental music; engage in outdoor sports; get first-responder training; volunteer for your local fire department, etc.

These kinds of activities stimulate the same pleasure centers in the brain as nicotine but without harm. Prayerfully consider these along with an effective smoking-cessation program, and you’ll be better off than doing even what your dad suggests.

Peter N. Landless, a board-certified nuclear cardiologist, is director of the General Conference Health Ministries Department. Zeno L. Charles-Marcel, a board-certified internist, is an associate director of Adventist Health Ministries at the General Conference.