Can Smoking Cigars Cause Cancer?

Cigar Smoke Causes Cancer Even When Secondhand

man smoking cigar with secondhand smoke around him
Can cigar smoking and secondhand cigar smoke cause cancer?. Photo©alessandroguerriero

Can Smoking Cigars Cause Cancers?

Yes, cigar smoke can cause cancer, and secondhand cigar smoke can as well. Cigars can cause cancers, including lung cancer, and secondhand cigar smoke is a danger to non-cigar-smokers. In fact, it seems that secondhand cigar smoke poses a greater danger than secondhand cigarette smoke.

Why, and what do we know?

A study published in the British Medical Journal in the 1990s suggested that cigarette smokers were better off switching to cigars or pipes.

While subsequent studies have also shown a lower risk of lung cancer among cigar smokers versus cigarette smokers, the risk is still substantial. Cigar smokers are 5 times as likely to develop lung cancer as those who have never smoked. And lung cancer is not the only issue.

Other Cancers Caused by Cigar Smoking

Cigar smokers are 4 to 10 times more likely than non-smokers to develop cancers of the mouth, larynx, and esophagus.They appear to have an elevated risk of developing pancreatic cancer as well.

Talking about cancer risk for cigar smokers is just for starters. Cigar smoking is associated with coronary heart disease, emphysema, and what many middle-aged people dread—tooth loss leading to the need for dentures. The article below highlights some of these additional concerns with cigar smoking.

Secondhand Cigar Smoke is Dangerous to Nearby Non-Smokers

Another factor to consider thoughtfully is secondhand smoke.

Cigars produce a greater amount of second-hand smoke than cigarettes. Adding together the statistics we have gathered—the risk of cancer for cigar vs cigarette smokers, and the risk of secondhand smoke due to cigars and cigarettes—the sum of the equation is saddening and a cause for non-smokers to open their mouths.

While the risk of cancer for a cigar smoker is lower than that the risk of cancer for a cigarette smoker, the risk for exposed non-smokers may be greater for those exposed to cigars than for those exposed to cigarettes.

The best option if you are concerned about these findings is to quit smoking if you smoke, whether that means cigarettes, cigars, or a pipe. Check out the Quit Smoking Toolbox to get started

And if you're a non-smoker looking for tips on how to minimize your exposure to secondhand smoke at home and when you travel, check out this article:

Further Reading:

  • Diseases Caused by Smoking - Some of these are obvious and some, not so. Smoking of any form affects not only health, but fertility, facial appearance, and even the risk of divorce.


Streppel, M. et al. Mortality and life expectancy in relation to long-term cigarette, cigar and pipe smoking: the Zutphen study. Tobacco Control. 2007. 16(2):107-13.

Wald, N. and H. Watt. Prospective study of effect of switching from cigarettes to pipes or cigars on mortality from three smoking related diseases. British Medical Journal. 1997. 314(7098):1860-3.