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Most people know about the addictive qualities and cancer risks of cigarettes, but what about cigars and chewing tobacco?

Cigars

  • One cigar contains 5–17 grams of tobacco. That can be more than a whole pack of cigarettes.
  • Although cigars contain more tobacco per unit, they take longer to smoke (generally 1–2 hours), so people tend to smoke fewer.
  • Cigars and cigarettes have similar carcinogenic properties, but most cigars don’t  have filters, while cigarettes usually do. Without the filter, more carcinogens can enter the body.
  • Most cigar smokers say they don’t inhale, so they may have a slightly lower risk of lung cancer.
  • There are 12 other types of cancer that can be caused by tobacco use, plus heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and acute myeloid leukemia.

Chewing Tobacco

Chewing tobacco (also called dip, chew, smokeless tobacco, pinch, and snuff) is a bit of tobacco that is placed directly in the mouth, often between the gums and teeth. Depending on its form and a person’s preference, the tobacco juices are spit out or swallowed.

  • Chewing tobacco is in direct contact with the mouth and stays there, exposing the body to nicotine for an extended period. A person who chews 8–10 times per day is ingesting the same amount of nicotine as one who smokes two packs of cigarettes a day.
  • The tobacco never makes it to the lungs, so this may reduce the risk of lung cancer, but oral cancer, gum disease, and tooth decay are significant concerns.

No matter the delivery method, nicotine is powerfully addictive. If you use tobacco products, quitting now can reduce your risk of the negative effects.

Quitting Leads to Lowered Health Risks

Research has indicated that within 10 years of stopping tobacco use, a person’s lung cancer risk can be reduced by at least 50 percent. Quitting also reduces the risk of heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

The Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania explains that cancer risk decreases over time. This is true for lung cancer, and also for the 12 other types of cancer that can be caused by smoking and other tobacco use: oral, nasal, sinus, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, liver, bladder, kidney, and cervix.

According to the National Cancer Institute, “Studies have shown that smokers who quit at about age 30 reduce their chance of dying prematurely from smoking-related diseases by more than 90 percent.”

People are most successful at quitting with medical and other forms of support. Contact your school’s health center or talk with your health care provider about programs and services that are available.

In addition, seek out support from friends and family, and consider participating in an online quit program. For example:

American Lung Association’s Freedom From Smoking® program

American Cancer Society, Guide to Quitting Smokeless Tobacco

Get help or find out more


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Amber Gibson is a senior studying broadcast journalism and business at Northwestern University, and is also a model and actress.