Questions About Smoking, Tobacco, and Health

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What are the health risks of smoking pipes or cigars?

Many people view cigar smoking as less dangerous than cigarette smoking. Yet one large cigar can contain as much tobacco as an entire pack of cigarettes.

Small cigars are close to cigarettes in size and contain similar amounts of tobacco. Even though many people don’t think of them when they hear the word “cigar,” smaller cigars are all too common today. You can even find them at gas stations and convenience stores.

Most of the same cancer-causing substances found in cigarettes are found in cigars. Big cigars have as much nicotine as several cigarettes, which can cause addiction. Smaller cigars often have filters and are inhaled in much the same way as cigarettes. Many young people use them exactly like cigarettes, and the risk factors are expected to be the same.

Smoking cigars causes cancers of the lung, lip, tongue, mouth, throat, larynx (voice box), esophagus (swallowing tube), and has been linked to cancers of the bladder and pancreas.

Cigar smokers who inhale and smoke several cigars a day are also at increased risk for heart disease, blood vessel disease, and chronic lung disease. Those who don’t inhale are exposed to secondhand smoke, which also has many health risks.

Pipe smokers have an increased risk of dying from cancers of the lung, lip, throat, esophagus, larynx, pancreas, and colon and rectum. They also have an increased risk of dying of heart disease, stroke, and chronic lung disease. The level of these risks seems to be about the same as that for cigar smokers.

Smoking cigars or pipes is not a safe alternative to smoking cigarettes.

To learn more, please see our document called Cigar Smoking.

Last Medical Review: 02/13/2014
Last Revised: 02/13/2014