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).
- National Cancer Institute. Smoking and Tobacco Control Monographs. Monograph 9: Cigars: Health Effects and Trends. 1998. NIH Pub No 98-4302.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cigars Factsheet. July 2015.
- American Cancer Society. Cigar Smoking Fact Sheet. February 2014.
- King BA, Tynan MA, Dube SR, Arrazola R. Flavored-Little-Cigar and Flavored-Cigarette Use Among U.S. Middle and High School Students. Journal of Adolescent Health. Jan 2014; 54(1):40-6.
- American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts and Figures, 2007.
- Federal Trade Commission. Nationwide Labeling Rules for Cigar Packaging and Ads Take Effect Today. February 13, 2001.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Results from the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. 2014.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tobacco Use Among Middle and High School Students — United States, 2011–2014. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. April 17, 2015; 64(14):381-5.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance—United States, 2013. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. June 13, 2014; 63(SS-04).