Ever since I began enjoying cigars, I’ve had people in my life that worried about me and my health. Having seen the effects first hand of what years of cigarette smoking can do to someone, I’ve had to defend my lifestyle and the products that make it great.
I’ve always preached that my cigars are as natural as they come, with nothing added but love, time and craftsmanship. Having seen the entire process from beginning to end in Honduras, I had the opportunity to see first hand just how pure the process is.
But people still have their doubts.
I decided to do a little research to help put this comparison to bed. I was actually surprised at what I found. Now in full disclosure, I’d be ignorant to sit here and say that there are not health risks associated with cigars. Just like putting anything foreign into one’s body, there are risks and long-term effects. But I would much rather have the effects of a natural product run it’s course on me over the course of a lifetime than voluntarily ingesting a pack of cigarettes, and shorten my life significantly with every toke.
Lets look at two of the major differences in the production process and examine why they are done.
Leafs for cigars are hung in drying barns after they are harvested for an extended period of time. These barns are fully equipped with complicated technology, i.e. fresh air and heat. By manually controlling the temperature in the barns, cigar companies are able to let the leafs naturally change color from green to brown, allowing much of the nicotine and sugar (which is in the plants naturally) to exit the leafs. One thing to also keep in mind is that tobacco leafs themselves have less nicotine content than the stems and once tobacco leafs are dried and cured and sent to a factory, the stems are removed before rolling.
Cigarette leafs are also cured, but because quantities and time are of the essence, these tobaccos are cooked to speed up the process. This cooking process actually increases the level of cancer causing chemicals called nitrosamines, which are found in most foods we already consume. Once the leafs are “done”, the stems, leafs and any leaf scraps are processed or masticated into a paper-like pulp. Tobacco stems, which contain most of the nicotine, are blended in to help increase addictiveness. Ammonia is also added at this point to increase the PH level, making them more addictive and a host of other chemicals are added to help the immature leafs burn.
Findings: Cigars are not meant to be addictive, as the most addictive portion of the leaf is removed. Cigarettes are intended to hook you. So much so that stuff is added to ensure that this happens. The stems that are removed during cigar production are eventually sold to paper companies to supply…cigarette companies. So whatever stems they don’t grow themselves, they buy from someone else to ensure that as much nicotine as possible goes into the product. Interesting note, cigarettes only contain 10% tobacco and 90% man-made ingredients.
Cigar lovers love the flavors that each particular leaf gives them. While leafs from different regions offer specific compositions and tastes, their fermentation and aging processes help to ensure that consumers are not subjected to ammonia and the taste that the chemical produces. Fermentation, which consists of adding heat and water, is again a natural process that individual cigar companies control as this is their stamp or recipe for enhancing specific flavors in their tobaccos.
To mask the flavor of the ammonia that is added to cigarettes, licorice and cocoa are added. While these substances alone are not harmful, when burned they actually open up the bronchial tubes. So not only are they masking what what added, they are enabling more of the other substances to reach the greater depths of the consumer’s lungs.
Findings: Because cigar smoke is not to be inhaled into one’s lungs, the risk is far smaller than that of cigarettes, as cigarettes additives are intended to provide a rush by directly entering the blood stream through the lungs. The rush one gets from cigars comes from what nicotine is left being absorbed through the skin. Cigarette ingredients include the most carcinogenic portions of the leaf and extra stuff listed HERE…on purpose.
Again, I’m not saying that smoking cigars is like eating vegetables and is completely healthy. But for comparison sake, I still hold firm that eating a salad with bacon grease (because everyone loves bacon) is healthier than eating a salad with nail polish remover poured on it (acetone, which is also added to cigarettes).
While in Honduras, I smoked and tested cigars with old Central American men that had been enjoying them for longer than I had been alive. And these dudes, at 60 years old, could probably still take me out and wrestle me to the ground..and not break a sweat. I like my chances of taking out an old person that’s been smoking cigarettes since they were 16.
In conclusion, I’ll continue to enjoy my cigars in all of their natural glory. If you like/love/enjoy cigarettes, that’s fine, but no one can tell me that they’re the same. So are cigars just big, brown cigarettes? Not even close. So if establishments are gonna ban something, discourage something, look down on something, it only makes sense that it would be Camels, not Cohibas.
Stepping down off of pedestal