Cigars aren’t as unhealthy as cigarettes, right?
Because smoke from cigars and cigarettes contains the same harmful toxins and carcinogens, the differences in health risks are related to the differences in daily use and level of inhalation. Although cigars are generally bigger than cigarettes, containing more tobacco, the majority of cigar smokers only smoke occasionally and do not inhale. However, even those who do not inhale have an increased risk for mouth cancer.
Technically, the difference between a cigarette and a cigar is based on the outside covering. Cigars are rolls of tobacco covered in a tobacco leaf or substance containing tobacco, while cigarettes are rolls of tobacco wrapped in paper or some other tobacco-free substance. Cigars are generally bigger, sometimes containing as much tobacco as an entire pack of cigarettes. The tobacco leaves used to make cigars are aged and fermented, which causes cigar tobacco to have a different taste and smell than cigarette tobacco.
Someone who smokes the occasional cigar without inhaling may not suffer the health risks associated with smoking a pack of cigarettes everyday, but second-hand smoke from a cigar is more dangerous than that of a cigarette. Because cigars have more tobacco, and burn longer than cigarettes, they give off more environmental tobacco smoke. Additionally, cigar smoke contains higher concentrations of the carcinogens found in cigarette smoke.
Is smokeless tobacco a safe alternative to cigarettes?
No, smokeless tobacco pollutes your body with numerous chemicals that cause health problems from gum recession to oral cancer. Tobacco in any form causes cancer and contains nicotine, a highly addictive chemical. People who use smokeless tobacco are several times more likely to develop oral cancer than those who do not use tobacco.
There are two types of spit tobacco: chewing tobacco and snuff. Chewing tobacco comes in loose leaf, plugs, or twists, while snuff is generally powdered tobacco, sold dry or moist (typically in cans). People who chew keep tobacco in their mouths for several hours to get a continuous high from the nicotine. Snuff is “dipped,” meaning a small amount is pinched from the can and placed between the cheek and the gum. Nicotine is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream through the lining of the mouth, resulting in a quick high.
Toxic chemicals in smokeless tobacco, including arsenic and formaldehyde, contribute to cancer of the mouth, leukoplakia (white, leathery patch inside the mouth where skin has been irritated by tobacco juice), heart disease, gum disease, and tooth decay. Spit tobacco permanently discolors teeth, and as the gums recede, teeth will fall out.