Should I be Worried about my Son Smoking Flavored Cigars?

Q: My son and his college friends are smoking flavored cigars. Should I be worried?

A: Flavored cigars are more popular than ever – especially since the FDA toughened the rules on cigarettes. With flavored cigars, the wrappers come in a variety of flavors and are placed around the tobacco, disguising tobacco’s bad taste. The flavors are designed to appeal to teens and young adults and include strawberry, watermelon, and chocolate.

Smaller cigars, which are close in size to cigarettes and sometimes called cigarillos, are popular among young adults, according to recent studies. They tend to cost less than cigarettes and the flavors fool people into thinking they aren’t dangerous.

While the tobacco in cigars is cured differently than the tobacco in cigarettes, it doesn’t make them less dangerous. In fact, these smaller cigars have the same exact health risks as cigarettes. Smoking cigars increases the risk of cancer, including lung, throat, and mouth, as well as gum disease and tooth loss. Cigars burn longer, which means there is a longer exposure to second-hand smoke.

Cigars also contain nicotine, which is addictive. Some experts also warn that some people use the flavored wrappers from cigars around their marijuana cigarettes since the wrappers help mask the distinctive smell of pot.

While your son and his friends may think they aren’t doing anything dangerous, smoking flavored cigars have the same health risks as smoking cigarettes. I hope that once you share this information with them that they will kick their smoking habit. If they’ve become addicted to the nicotine in the cigars, there are resources for them to turn to for help battling their addiction. For more information, they can contact the Wisconsin Tobacco Quit Line at (800) QUIT NOW or visit www.ctri.wisc.edu/quitline2.html.

By Judd Pulley, MD, family physician, ThedaCare Physicians-West in Appleton.