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Stogie Commentary: Just How Risky is Cigar Smoking?

9 Oct 2007

If you’re reading this it probably means that, like me, you’re an adult who has made the conscious decision to, at least occasionally, smoke cigars. You understand that, like most things, there are certain risks associated with the hobby. But you’ve considered your options and have decided the benefits outweigh those risks.

Today, making that decision is terribly difficult. Thanks to a plethora of anti-smoking activist groups and self-interested health organizations, it seems nowadays, when it comes to cigars and risk, there’s more misinformation than information out there.

Thomas Lambert’s “The Case Against Smoking Bans,” for example, gives a good assessment of how the Environmental Protection Agency completely fabricated the risks associated with secondhand smoke in an effort to fuel the imposition of smoking bans.

So it may not surprise you that I’ve wanted to do a brief examination on the health effects of cigars for quite some time. The only problem is I’m not a doctor.

But Marc J. Schneiderman is. In order to better educate myself on the subject, I’ve been reading Dr. Schneiderman’s musings on how the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) seminal 1998 study on cigars “clearly demonstrates that those risks are acceptable to those who use the product responsibly.”

“The great majority of cigar smokers smoke fewer than one cigar per day and don’t inhale. The ‘habitual’ cigar smoker is rarely even a daily smoker. Disease risk ratios comparing cigar smokers to the general non-smoking population are reported by NCI:


This chart demonstrates that the 1-2 cigar/day user who doesn’t inhale is not at serious risk for developing cancer or heart disease. The ‘all cause’ of death risk for smokers of 1-2 cigars per day (and sometimes more) is not significantly different when compared to those who never smoked.”

Dr. Schneiderman convincingly makes many other relevant points in his rebuttal of the study – including that cigars are not addictive. If you’re interested in the subject, as I’m guessing many of you are, I would highly recommend reading his complete response.

I write this not to make light of the various hazards associated with cigar smoking. Risks exist and we should all be aware of them.

But much of the “science” government agencies and anti-smoking zealots use to advance their own agendas is terribly flawed. As Thomas Lambert and Dr. Schneiderman have done, these unsubstantiated claims should be identified and challenged. In that spirit, I look forward to gathering more data on the health effects of cigars as it becomes available.

Patrick A

Tags: cigars

19 Responses to “Stogie Commentary: Just How Risky is Cigar Smoking?”

  1. Bestol Tuesday, October 9, 2007 at 5:17 am #

    Thanks very much for the info. Like most enthusiasts I understand cigars are a bit risky, but just how much is not clear. Sounds like two to three cigars per week probably won't yield terrible health consequences.

  2. Paul Tuesday, October 9, 2007 at 6:12 am #

    Years ago, in high school, our school brought in a cancer specialist from the local medical university to warn us about the dangers of smoking. I approached this expert after the assembly and asked him about cigars. He basically said that, unless you smoke a significant amount every day (the number he used was five), the risk of smoking related illness, though somewhat increased, is not something to be too concerned about.

    It's nice to see some number to back that up.

  3. Paul Tuesday, October 9, 2007 at 6:14 am #

    That should be "numbers," not "number."

  4. Duke Tuesday, October 9, 2007 at 8:03 am #

    Though the author makes some valid observations, his assessment is completely flawed. First, what does the table tell you? Unfortunately Dr. Schneiderman doesn’t exactly give the most comprehensive of definitions to the table’s statistics. The table’s statistics are risk ratios. For example, the base is non-smoker (someone who has never smoked), so a person who smokes 1-2 cigars per day is 18% more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than someone who has never smoked. Significant? Depends on your view. What about larynx cancer? A person who smokes 1-2 cigars per day is 646% more likely to develop larynx cancer than someone who has never smoked!

    So why are coronary artery disease and lung cancer almost negligible (ie, a 1-2 cigar per day smoker is just as likely to develop lung cancer as a non-smoker)—because you don’t inhale cigars! Inhalation, according to the NCI report is a huge explanatory difference between cigar and cigarette smokers.

    Finally, the author main point is to illustrate the lack of general risk assumptions the NCI report does not include such as alcohol consumption, serum cholesterol levels, hypertension, diabetes, and previous coronary events. These other factors are inconsequential to the NCI report. However, the studies that the NCI report examine each hold the “other factors” constant for both non-smokers and smokers. What does this mean? Non-smokers are likely to drink as much as smokers and thus cancel out (multicollinearity).

    So what does this all mean? Absolutely nothing, because I am still going to enjoy the hell out my Perdomo Lot 23 maduro tonight!!

    Dr. Duke

  5. Cigar Jack Tuesday, October 9, 2007 at 4:23 pm #

    Great article! I was surprised a couple years ago when my insurance company accepted me as a non-smoker even though I smoke 1 or 2 cigars a day.

  6. Ironmeden Friday, October 12, 2007 at 1:21 pm #

    I had a physical a few years ago and the doctor asked if I smoked. I said I never smoked a cigarette in my life but I smoke about 3 to 5 cigars a week. He basically just shrugged his shoulders and continued on with the physical.

  7. Captain Joe Sunday, October 28, 2007 at 3:01 pm #

    I quit smoking a year ago and noticed almost immediate physical and vocal improvements. I smoke 3-4 cigars a week and still my blood looks good and vocal stamina (I sing in a band) remains strong. Thanks for the article.

  8. Cigarjoe1961 Thursday, January 10, 2008 at 6:51 am #

    Cigar Jack,

    What Insurance Comapny? I smoke 2-3 cigars per week, so what if I say I am not a smoker and quite a couple weeks before an Insurance physical?

  9. Kyle Thursday, December 11, 2008 at 6:24 pm #

    As a previous poster mentioned, you've misinterpreted the statistics of the study. The odds given report how likely you are to experience any given cancer relative to a non-smoker. So, the person who smokes one to two cigars a day has 1.39 times (39%) the odds of getting emphysema as someone who never smoked. The person who smokes five or more cigars a day increases their odds of larynx cancer by 26.03 times, or 2,603%.

    I'm a smoker, but these numbers should not be taken lightly.

  10. moose Friday, February 6, 2009 at 7:57 am #

    All I have to say is,…. how old was the cigar-loving George Burns when he died?

    Honestly, I enjoy cigars, the relaxed pace and breathing usually accompanied with them.

    Long ashes brothers,

    andy moose

  11. MrWowserz Sunday, October 11, 2009 at 6:46 pm #

    I smoke a cigar maybe twice a month, so while the risks are a thing I am aware of, its not a thing that really frightens me terrible. At the same time, I suppose that there is always the chance of being a statistic? I dunno, it'll seem clearer when I sit down with my nice Drew Estate Clean Robusto.

  12. glenn Monday, February 15, 2010 at 5:31 am #

    I really can't see a few cigars a week to be that bad for you. I workout 4-5 days a week and smoke 2-3 cigars a week. It hasn't had an efect on my blood pressure or heart rate. Maybe 30-40 a week will be detrimental, but I have seen a few guys smoke a ton of them each week and they still smoke them in their 80's and even 90's. I think moderation is the key to everything, INHO

  13. Si Tuesday, August 6, 2013 at 2:55 pm #

    Here is a ridiculous "fact sheet" from the national cancer institute that pretty much establishes a 0 tolerance policy and pretty much states that all tobacco is created equal and thus equally hazardous. No where does it say that cigarettes contain harmful extra additives which natural cigars do not.

  14. tractorhead Sunday, November 17, 2013 at 3:01 am #

    I smoke 2 to 3 good quality cigars per week. Smoke in a well ventilated will be fine

  15. Ben Smith Tuesday, May 27, 2014 at 2:54 pm #

    I smoke 4 or 5 black and milds a week. I work out 5 days a week. I seem in better shape than 99% of 40 year olds I know.

  16. Meshaal Sunday, June 22, 2014 at 12:30 pm #

    Hello guys,

    When you say you smoke 2-3 a week or less or more do you mean inhaling or not.

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