From casual smoking in pop culture to serious cigar aficionados, cigar smoking is more common than ever. It is always imperative to be informed and educated about the activities in which you partake. Hate to tell you folks, but the amount of nicotine in small cigars is as much or more than the amount found in cigarettes.
Research has been done on the nicotine that has been found in small or filtered cigars. These cigars are the types that are wrapped in tobacco leaf or a mix of tobacco leaf and paper and are easily found at convenience stores. The amount of nicotine in this type of cigar smoke is on par, or greater than what is found in cigarette smoke.
An important distinction needs to be made between smoking cigarettes and cigars. Cigarette smoke is inhaled into the lungs by the smoker. On the other hand, while cigar smoke can be either inhaled or not inhaled and simply kept in the mouth before exhaling. If the smoke is not inhaled, the nicotine is absorbed through the mucus membranes in the mouth at a much slower rate.
Nicotine is a primary chemical found in tobacco and releases increased levels of dopamine to the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that produces a pleasurable sensation. With each inhalation of tobacco, nicotine sends a chemical message that leaves the smoker desiring more of that same feeling, thus leading to addiction for some. Considered a psychoactive drug, it is classified as a substance abuse disorder by the World Health Organization. Nicotine withdrawal can have symptoms of irritability, anxiety, sleep problems, an increase in appetite, and a craving for nicotine. (www.cancer.gov).
Cigar Smoking and Cancer
The type of tobacco used in cigar production is different than what is used in cigarettes. They are mostly made up of one type of air-dried or fermented tobacco and can have a wrapper made of tobacco, paper, or a combination of paper and tobacco wrapper. Some small cigars will have a filter tip and are designed for the smoke to be inhaled. A study from the National Cancer Institute found that cigar smoke is possibly more toxic than cigarette smoke. The report also states that since most small cigars have non-porous rappers, the burning of cigar tobacco is less complete than the burning of cigarette tobacco. Due to this, there are higher concentrations of toxins in cigar smoke. Smoking cigars can be cancer-causing with increased risks to heart and lung disease like emphysema and chronic bronchitis. There is also an increased risk of oral cavity, esophageal, and larynx cancer (www.cancer.gov).
Cigar Smoking and Tobacco Use
Some say the array of flavors of small cigars have contributed to their popularity - while others claim it's their single or double pouch availability at convenience stores that has boosted their sales. Their affordable price is in part due to different taxing than cigarettes in certain states.
When smoking cigars, nicotine is absorbed by the lungs and oral mucosal membranes reaching the brain and peak blood levels at a slower rate than cigarette smoking. Cigar consumption has exponentially increased since 1993.
Since small cigars were exempt from the ban on advertising cigarettes in the early '70s, sales quadrupled. Lower tax rates also contributed to drastic growth in sales. The FDA has pointed to banning the use of flavored small cigars for quite some time now, claiming that the flavors and their affordability has kept them attractive to young smokers. Individual states are working to achieve a ban on flavored cigars themselves - with many areas now across the country prohibiting the sale of flavored tobacco in their jurisdiction. (Http://marylandtcrc.org/tobacco-information).
Nicotine and Dental Implications
A single cigar can potentially have as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes. The fermentation process in curing cigar tobacco results in more toxic smoke than cigarette smoke. Nitrosamines are found in higher levels of cigar smoke compared to cigarette smoke. Since nicotine is a vasoconstrictor, it reduces blood flow to tissues, especially in the mouth where cigar smoke accumulates. Large cigars can produce as much as ten times the amount of nicotine as a filtered cigarette. (www.dentalcare.com).
What the FDA Has to Day
As of October 2020, the FDA estimates 9.3 million adults in the U.S. currently smoke cigars. They report that little filtered cigars may be thought of as less addictive or have fewer health risks than cigarettes. However, cigars may actually be more addictive. (www.fda.gov).
Cigar Nicotine Absorption
Cigars can have up to 100-200 mg. of nicotine per cigar while a cigarette averages 8mg. Most cigar smoke is left in the mouth and not in the lungs unless inhaled. When in the mouth the nicotine is absorbed through the oral cavity membranes and not in the bloodstream as it is with cigarettes at a much higher
rate. Again, it’s important to know that the inhalation of cigar smoke produces the most detrimental effects. When the smoke is kept in the mouth less nicotine is absorbed, and it absorbs more slowly. Blowing smoke rings or holding an unlit cigar in the mouth will reduce nicotine risks (www.pihhealth.com).
Survey of Nicotine Yields in Small Cigars
In a study published in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research in 2017, a smoking machine was used to determine nicotine amounts in small cigars compared to cigarettes. Eight brands of small cigars averaged 1.24 and 3.49 mg/unit compared with 0.73 and 2.35 mg/unit for cigarettes. Test results concluded that small cigars deliver significantly more nicotine per unit than cigarettes. (www.academic.oup.com).
Do Black and Milds Contain Nicotine?
Black and Mild cigars have nicotine amounts greater than cigarettes in each puff. Because cigars are often not inhaled, the nicotine is dispersed more slowly through the smoke in the mouth. Therefore, the action of the nicotine on the brain is slower compared to cigarettes or slower than inhaling cigar smoke. If not inhaled, the effect may make them less addictive (www.quora.com).
Nicotine Amounts in Cigars and Cigarettes
A single cigarette can vary between 6-28 mg. Of nicotine. The average amount is 10-12 mg, whereas an average cigar has between 13.3 -15.4 mg of nicotine per cigar. (www.healthline.com).
Absorption of Nicotine from Small Cigars
According to a study published by PubMed, the amount of nicotine from cigar smoke in the mouths of seven male participants was greater than that of cigarettes. However, the amount of nicotine retained by the smoker was about the same. The total dose retained varied between 1mg-4.5mg and those levels rose more slowly in the bloodstream. (www.pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
Nicotine Content in Swisher Sweets
An Oregon State University study looked at levels of nicotine in different tobacco products. The nicotine was measured per gram of each type by use of a gas chromatograph-mass spectrometer. Of the seven types sampled, Swisher Sweets were the fifth highest with 10.8mg of nicotine per gram of tobacco.
Blunt Smoking and Nicotine Exposure
A popular method of consuming cannabis is through the use of cigar wrappers. Some or all of the tobacco is emptied and repacked and rerolled with cannabis. Even though the tobacco was removed, the wrappers themselves were found to contain quantifiable amounts of nicotine, though drastically less than a cigar. Analyzed through the use of gas chromatography/mass spectrometry, the wrappers contained from 1.2mg-6.0mg per blunt. (www.pubmed.ncbi.nml.nih.gov).
The popularity, accessibility, and prevalence of cigar smoking are on the rise. Many state and federal regulatory strategies are being aimed at reducing nicotine in tobacco products making them non-addictive. These regulations might also be put into effect for cigars - but only time will tell.
Smoking cigars has always been a favorite pastime of many and will continue to be for years to come. So whether you enjoy a stogie, a blunt, or cigarillo -
as always, please smoke responsibly!