The Word On Cigars And Health Concerns

Random leaves could be tobacco leaves, but they're not...I don’t think there’s anybody left who doesn’t know that any use of tobacco, whether it be smoked, chewed, or rolled around in, may cause cancer. That’s no longer a mystery at this point, no matter what the soccer-mom juries decide in the next people v. tobacco class action lawsuit.

What is still a mystery, at least to me, is how dangerous cigars actually are, especially in comparison to cigarettes. Nearly all the bad, scary stuff you hear about tobacco assumes the tobacco in question comes in the form of a cigarette. It would seem to me that cigars must be less dangerous than cigarettes for three reasons:

  1. Cigar smokers typically don’t inhale the smoke. The ones that do are often also cigarette smokers and have a higher tolerance for inhaled smoke. (I don’t know this for sure, but I suspect inhaling cigars frequently might be the fast train to emphysema-land.)
  2. The tobacco used in cigars is less chemically processed and more natural than the tobacco used in cigarettes.
  3. Cigar smokers tend to smoke with less frequency than cigarette smokers.

If I left off here, I probably wouldn’t have said anything you haven’t heard before. And both of us would leave this blog with a nice warm fuzzy and go make that fuzzy a bit warmer by lighting up a good cigar. But since I’m not any sort of medical professional, you should know the above reasons are just a combination of my own crackpot theories, and the second hand information I have picked up in my years of stogie puffing.

Since I’m all about adding value, I decided to do a little leg work. So here, in no particular order are some tidbits I picked up from reputable sources online regarding the health risks of cigars:

Cigar Health Tidbits

  • One cigar a week is unlikely to have serious health consequences. (4)
  • In terms of health risks, puffing on a stogie but not inhaling is roughly the equivalent of smoking two cigarettes. Inhaling boosts the exposure to the equivalent of as many as three cigarettes. (4)
  • Smoking one to two cigars per day doubles the risk for oral and esophageal cancers. Smoking three to four cigars daily can increase the risk of oral cancers to more than eight times. (1)
  • The health risks associated with occasional cigar smoking (less than daily) are not known.(1)(3)
  • Cigar smokers who have a history of cigarette smoking are more likely to inhale cigar smoke. (1)
  • Cigarettes are generally contain less than 1 gram of tobacco each. Large cigars can contain between 5 and 17 grams of tobacco. Some premium cigars contain the tobacco equivalent of an entire pack of cigarettes. (1)(2)
  • The lung cancer risk from moderately inhaling smoke from five cigars a day is comparable to the risk from smoking up to one pack of cigarettes a day. (1)
  • The measurements of the carbon monoxide (CO) concentration at a cigar party and a cigar banquet in a restaurant showed indoor CO levels comparable to those measured on a crowded California freeway.(1)
  • Cigar consumption declined by about 66 percent from 1973 through 1993, but has increased more than 50 percent since 1993. (1)
  • Studies show that men who smoke at least five cigars a day and report moderate inhalation, experience lung cancer deaths at about two-thirds the rate of men who smoke one pack of cigarettes a day.(2)
  • Secondhand cigar smoke has much higher concentrations of toxins and carcinogens than do cigarettes.(2)
  • The sharp rise in the popularity of in gourmet coffee and microbrewery beers has led to a large increase in cigar smoking particularly among young and middle-aged white men (ages 18 to 44) with higher than average incomes and education.(3)
  • The risk of death from lung cancer for cigar smokers that do not inhale is not as high as it is for cigarette smokers, but is still three times higher than the risk for nonsmokers. (3)

The Verdict
It looks like I was actually not too far off with the three impressions I mentioned earlier. The key to enjoying cigars and and minimizing your potential health risks seems to be not inhaling the smoke. Since very few cigar smokers do that, it’s my opinion that there’s more hype than health risk to cigar smoking. (Something tells me that the late centenarian George Burns would agree with me on this.)

The thing I find troubling is that some of the statistics give the odds for various health issues, without ever identifying how many cigars a day they’re basing their facts on. Based on repeated references to the impacts of five cigars a day, I’m thinking that five is assumed to be average. I just have to ask, who the heck has the time and the money to smoke five cigars a day? That’s the problem with statistics like these, they’re assembled by non-smokers. 🙂

And finally, I didn’t see any information on the comparison of the quality and purity of the tobacco between cigars and cigarettes. So my idea that the tobacco in a cigar is actually less damaging due to chemicals used in cigarette tobacco may just be a crackpot theory I made up while smoking a cigar. If you happen to come across information one way or the other on this, feel free to leave a comment and let me know!

OK, there’s a cigar waiting for me with my name on it… 🙂

My Sources

  1. National Cancer Institute: Questions and Answers About Cigar Smoking and Cancer
  2. American Lung Association: Cigar Smoking Fact Sheet
  3. American Cancer Society: Cigar Smoking: Growing Popularity Amoung Young Adults
  4. University of Southern California: Cigar Smoking Remains Serious Health Risk (via CigarLife)

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Ad Killing: My Guilty Obsession

Escape Graffiti - Lisbon, PortugalFor this past Christmas, my parents bought us a subscription to a major monthly periodical. While the magazine isn’t my favorite, I do enjoy paging through it from time to time. As with any magazine it has its good articles, and a lot of over-hyped mediocre ones. But the thing I enjoy most about the magazine is tearing out the pages that have full-page ads on both sides.

And you’d be surprised how many of them there are. (Well, maybe you wouldn’t, if you’re still a member of the rapidly shrinking population that still pays for things like magazines and newspapers.) The magazine literally reduces in size by half. It’s immensely satisfying, but what’s troubling is that there is so many ads in a magazine that people actually pay for. If you think about it, similar content online is available online for free, and with less obnoxious, intrusive ads. I can’t remember the last time I saw two full page ads, back-to-back between the webpages of an article (or blog post) on the internet. Every now and then you do see a full page, “you’ll be redirected to what you want to see after staring at this ad for the next 10 seconds” advertisement, but I think those are generally frowned on, and pretty rare. So why on earth does any magazine think it’s a good idea to show a full page ad for soup, followed by a full page ad for knock-out pills, followed by three pages of technical medical jargon for said pill? It’s kind of like borrowing a fiver from your friend, and then punching him in the gut after he gives it to you. Only it’s the magazine publisher collecting the the money and delivering the sucker punch.

Don’t get the impression that I like online advertisements. I think they’re an online business necessity, and occasionally, when done right, they’re actually a service to the viewer. But for every well placed, content relevant ad I see online, I see a hundred stupid animated banners featuring idiots dancing because they got an average rate on their mortgage. How the hell is that relevant to checking my email? Or reading the latest serious news on lolcats? (I just really wanted to put “lolcats” and “serious” in the same sentence.) iPod-esque, manic dancing silhouettes are not only completely obnoxious when you’re using the internet for something work related, they’re distracting. And of course that’s the point. That’s why I’ve been serial internet ad-killer for the last 8 years.

My current preferred tool is FireFox’s popular Adblock Plus add-on. It comes with a huge database of ad spam URLs, which it automatically blocks. What I really like about the add-on is that it adds options to your right click context menu. When you see an offending, obnoxious, whack-the-lolcat ad, you simply right click on it, and select “Adblock Image” from the menu, and it goes away. Awesome. Take that stupid tattoo-a-mortgage-rate-the-back-of-some-guy’s-head ad! Ha Ha! If that isn’t fun, I don’t know what is. (Whether or not I actually know what fun is can be debated in the comments.)

Before executing that plaid-suited idiot that’s trying to push cars, auto insurance, or crack on you from his tiny box with the click of a button, I used to be a bit more hard core. How hard core? I used to update the windows’ hosts file to point all the worst offending domains (doubleclick, for instance, and no, I won’t link there) to the localhost IP address. (Non-technical translation: I tricked the browser into looking for ad images on my laptop instead of looking where they actually live.) If Adblock is a precision strike on a banner ad target, updating the hosts file is napalming the countryside of a advertiser’s domain. And I like napalm. 😈 I keep a desktop shortcut to the hosts file on all my PCs. Still. I like to think of it as the red button. And, yes, I have scanned through the source of a web page to find the source of particularly annoying ads.

If you share my passion eliminating ridiculous animated hippo banners and would like to learn more about my napalm approach, here’s some links to get you started. (Note: I have not looked deeply into these websites, and would advise caution in downloading or installing anything from them. Reading through their content should give you the specifics you need to make changes on your own.)

  • A premade ad-blocking hosts file available for download here.
  • Another one here.
  • One more, with bit more information here.

Of course, I should tell you that changing the hosts file may have unintended consequences. Sometimes in your attempt to block an ad, you break a website. (I’ve broken hotmail several times in the past.) Fortunately, you can easily fix that by removing whatever block you put in, but this process may be beyond less technical users. Adblock Plus is a good option for the less technical.

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