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Smoke and Mirrors
Photo: Aleksandar Kosev
Several days after high school graduation, I landed a job at an upscale department store in our city’s only mall. Throughout the summer I often chatted with the store manager, a good looking man in his mid thirty’s. He seemed to take an interest in me and I was intrigued by this successful man who walked the store aisles puffing on his cigar.

One evening, as we left the building at closing time, I impulsively asked if I could try his stogie. With little hesitation he handed it over and I took a long drag on the fat, brown Havana.

Immediately I felt ill as my world began to spin. Stumbling through the parking lot toward my car, I hoped I would throw up. But I never did. Hours later, the vertigo ended and I was finally able to sleep. Needless to say, I never smoked another cigar, nor did I continue to see it as the hip thing to do.

Interestingly, more than 40 years later, many people still think smoking cigars is cool. Glamorized by the tobacco industry, as well as, Hollywood, a number of movie stars and athletes – both men and women – have been photographed smoking cigars. In recent years, cigar smoking has shown up on the silver screen, in both TV shows and movies aimed at the younger viewer. Even President Clinton was photographed puffing on a cigar on the golf course!

A study of 140 Internet sites marketing cigars, conducted by the University of California, revealed one third of these web sites focus their advertising toward young people with only 25% of those sites prohibiting sales to minors.

Popular Trend

All this has ignited a popular trend among youth and adolescents according to the American Cancer Society:
  • Cigar sales have increased 50% since 1993
  • 45% of cigar smokers are now between the ages of 18 and 24
  • 25% of cigar smokers are students
  • 15% of U.S. High School students (grades 9-12) have smoked a cigar or cigarillo (little cigar) in the past 30 days
  • 7% of U.S. Middle School students (grades 6-8) have done the same 
The Facts
Through all the hype, the allusion persists that smoking cigars is less risky than smoking cigarettes. Yet, here are the facts for cigar smokers:
  • Their risk of lung cancer is three times that for non smokers
  • Their rate of throat, tongue, mouth and larynx cancer is higher than cigarette smokers and 4 – 10 times that for non smokers
  • Their rate of bladder and pancreatic cancer is increased
  • Their incidence of heart and respiratory disease is increased
  • Cigars emit 22 times more carbon monoxide than cigarettes (a chief factor in tobacco related heart attacks)
  • The tobacco in one premium cigar is 15-20 times higher than a cigarette
  • Because they burn so much longer, a cigar produces 25 times as much second hand smoke as a cigarette.
  • Each cigar has about 23 times the amount of nicotine as a typical cigarette 
In short, this glamorized practice is nothing more than another health destroying habit in disguise.

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By Kathy A. Lewis. Copyright © 2009 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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