Health Effects of Cigars | American Lung Association

Health Effects of Cigars

Cigars contain the same addictive, toxic and carcinogenic compounds found in cigarettes and are not a safe alternative. Cigar smoking can cause cancers of the lung, oral cavity, larynx and esophagus.  Those who smoke cigars heavily or inhale deeply also increase their risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema.1 Despite their deadliness, cigars currently are completely unregulated by the federal government. The American Lung Association supports U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversight over cigars and all other tobacco products.   

Key Facts about Cigars and their Health Effects

  • There are three main types of cigars sold in the U.S.—large cigars, cigarillos and little cigars. In 2014, large cigars and cigarillos made up 96 percent of the market share in the U.S., with little cigars making up only 4 percent.2
  • A single large cigar can contain as much tobacco as an entire pack of cigarettes.3
  • In 2014, 63.5 percent of little cigar smoking youth used flavored cigars.4 Flavors mask tobacco's natural harshness and taste.
  • Cigar smoking has similar consequences as cigarette smoking, including four to 10 times the risk of dying from oral, esophageal or laryngeal cancer in comparison to nonsmokers.5
  • Since 2001, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission has required all cigar packages and advertisements to include warnings about the significant health risks associated with cigar use.6
  • For tobacco tax purposes, cigars are defined differently than cigarettes, which leads to state taxes on cigars often being significantly less than taxes on cigarettes.

Cigar Use in the U.S.

  • In 2015, an estimated 4.7 percent (12.5 million) of the U.S. population ages 12 and over were current cigar smokers.7
  • In 2015, 8.6 percent of high school students were current cigar smokers; 11.5 percent of boys and 5.6 percent of girls.8 Use ranged from a high of 14.2 percent in Arkansas to a low of 6.8 percent in California.9
  • Cigar use increases with each grade, from 6.6 percent of ninth-graders to 14.3 percent of twelfth-graders. Among high school students, cigar smoking rates were similar for non-Hispanic Whites (10.4 percent) compared to Hispanics (9.5 percent) and non-Hispanic Blacks (11.0 percent).9
  • In 2015, 1.6 percent of middle school students smoked cigars.8

Learn about the American Lung Association’s programs to help you or a loved one quit smoking, and join our advocacy efforts to reduce tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke. Visit Lung.org or call the Lung HelpLine at 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872). 


    Ask An Expert

    Questions about your lung health? Need help finding healthcare? Call 1-800-LUNGUSA.

    Get help
    We need your generous support

    Make a difference by delivering research, education and advocacy to those impacted by lung disease.

    What is LUNG FORCE?

    LUNG FORCE unites women and their loved ones across the country to stand together in the fight against lung cancer.

    Get involved
    Join the fight for healthy lungs and healthy air.
    Donate Now.