Health Effects of Cigars
Cigars contain the same addictive, toxic and carcinogenic compounds found in cigarettes and are not a safe alternative to them. Cigar smoking can cause cancers of the lung, oral cavity, larynx and esophagus as well as cardiovascular disease. 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
The American Lung Association strongly supports U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversight over cigars and all other tobacco products. On May 5, 2016, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it was extending its authority to include all forms of cigars.
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 2015, large cigars and cigarillos made up 95 percent of the market share in the U.S., with little cigars making up only 5 percent.2
- A single large cigar can contain as much tobacco as an entire pack of cigarettes.2
- In 2017, about half (49.3 percent) of cigar smoking youth used flavored cigars.3 Flavors mask tobacco's natural harshness and taste.
- Cigar smoking has many similar consequences as cigarette smoking, including four to 10 times the risk of dying from oral, esophageal or laryngeal cancer in comparison to non-smokers. 4
- 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.5
- 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 2017, an estimated 3.8 percent (9.3 million) of adults were current cigar smokers; 6.8 percent of men and 1.0 percent of women.6
- In 2017, 7.7 percent (1.1 million) of high school students were current cigar smokers; 9.0 percent of boys and 6.3 percent of girls.3
- Among high school students, cigar smoking rates were similar for non-Hispanic Whites (8.4 percent), non-Hispanic Blacks (7.8 percent) and Hispanics (6.7 percent).3
- In 2017, 1.5 percent of middle school students smoked cigars.3
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. October 2018.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Youth Tobacco Survey, 2017. Analysis by the American Lung Association Epidemiology and Statistics Unit using SPSS software.
- 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.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Center for Health Statistics. National Health Interview Survey, 2017. Analysis performed by the American Lung Association Epidemiology and Statistics Unit using SPSS software.
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Reviewed and approved by the American Lung Association Scientific and Medical Editorial Review Panel. Last reviewed March 6, 2019.
Page Last Updated: April 4, 2019