Cigars and Cigarettes Pose Similar Risks to Oral Health


Cigars and Cigarettes Pose Similar Risks to Oral Health

You’ve heard it for years, decades even: cigarette smoking is bad. That’s why you smoke cigars.  How bad can they be, especially if you don’t inhale, right?


Cigars and cigarettes pose similar risks to your health, and you don’t have to purposefully inhale the smoke to put yourself in harm’s way.

In 2014, researchers affiliated with the FDA conducted a systematic review of 22 epidemiological studies on current cigar smoking. They concluded that mortality rates from cigar smoking “can be as high as or exceed those of cigarette smoking.”

The studies separated cigar smokers into two groups: primary (those who have no history of cigarette or pipe smoking) and secondary (those who do have a history of cigarette or pipe smoking). This is a significant distinction because the secondary smokers are more likely to purposefully inhale, as they would cigarette smoke.

Keep in mind, however, that cigar smokers who don’t inhale are still breathing in large amounts of the smoke they exhale as well as the smoke coming from the lit end of their cigars. It is also important to note that although primary cigar smokers tend not to inhale, the studies found that they still had significantly elevated disease and mortality risks.

A single large cigar can contain a ½ ounce of tobacco, as much as an entire pack of cigarettes. One cigar also contains 100 to 200 milligrams of nicotine, while a cigarette averages about 8 milligrams. Cigar wrappers are made from tobacco leafs and don't burn as thoroughly as cigarette wrappers. This increases the concentration of ammonia, tar, carbon monoxide, and other cancer-causing chemicals released into the air.

We cannot emphasize this point enough: Cigars are not harmless. They are not safer to smoke than cigarettes. Both are dangerous. Both will adversely affect your health.

In addition to the general health risks posed, tobacco use in any form (cigars, cigarettes, pipe, and smokeless ‘spit’ tobacco) specifically affects oral health.

Here are some things you should know:

  • Tobacco is the cause of 80-90% of oral cancers.
  • The American Cancer Society estimates that in the United States in 2015:
    • 39,500 people will get oral or oropharyngeal cancer.
    • 7,500 people will die of these cancers
  • Researchers have observed a significant positive association between primary cigar smoking and esophageal cancer mortality.
  • Researchers have found significant positive associations between primary cigar smoking and laryngeal cancer mortality risk.
  • Smoking weakens your immune system and makes it harder to fight off a gum infection.
  • Smokers have twice the risk of gum disease as non-smokers.
  • Smoking may be responsible for almost 75% of periodontal diseases among adults.
  • Cigar smokers experience tooth loss and alveolar bone loss (bone loss within the jaw bone that anchors teeth) at rates equivalent to those of cigarette smokers.
  • Smokers are about twice as likely to lose their teeth as non-smokers.
  • Smoking causes delayed healing following dental treatment.
  • Smokers are more likely to get cavities.
  • Persistent bad breath and stained teeth are unpleasant results of smoking that brushing and flossing can’t eliminate entirely.

The takeaway here is that there is no harmless tobacco use.  Cigars and cigarettes both pose serious risks to oral health, whether you inhale or not. If you need more information on the risks of smoking or on how to quit smoking, our staff will be happy to help. At Soft Touch Dental, we take your oral health seriously. We hope you do, too.