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What Is the Difference between a Cigar and a Cigarette?

By Ken Black
Updated May 22, 2024
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While many may not understand the difference between a cigar and a cigarette, there are a number of them and they are substantial. While size is the first thing many people think of, that is only part of the explanation. No matter what your personal view is of cigars and cigarettes, it is important to remember the health consequences of smoking can be very severe with both products.

Officially, a cigar is defined as a tobacco product that is wrapped in a leaf tobacco or other product containing tobacco. A cigarette is a product that that is wrapped in paper, or at least a material that does not contain any tobacco in the wrapping. While this may seem like a small difference, it does indicate that size is not nearly as important as substance when it comes to the difference between the two.

While the wrapping may not make a great difference in the amount of tobacco in a cigar, most do have a substantial amount of tobacco. That is a big difference between a cigar and a cigarette. Many cigars have as much tobacco, or nearly as much, as an entire pack of cigarettes. Thus, the addictive properties and negative health effects are amplified with cigars in most cases.

Another difference is the way the two products are made. The tobacco in cigars is aged for approximately a year and then fermented through a process that takes another several months. This helps give the cigar a unique smell and flavor, especially when compared to cigarettes.

Also, most cigars do not have filters, another difference between a cigar and a cigarette. This makes cigars especially dangerous, simply because there are fewer safeguards filtering some of the harmful chemicals from entering the body. While filters by no means make smoking safe, they do help somewhat.

Some smaller cigars, referred to as cigarillos, do have filters. These smaller cigars are not as common as the larger models. Therefore, the vast majority of cigars smoked come without any form of filter.

As with cigarettes, the dangers of secondhand smoke with a cigar are just as prevalent. While many may find the smoke a little more pleasing to the senses than cigarette smoke, it can be just as dangerous. Dangers of second-hand smoke include spurring an asthma attack and even lung cancer, with long-term exposure.

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Discussion Comments

By anon977966 — On Nov 14, 2014

I have yet to see the article that describes how filters are far worse because they contain slivers of fiberglass. The fiberglass cuts your lips and lungs, which allows more nicotine, tar, and whatever other chemicals into the bloodstream. The filters are probably what cause all the cancers anyway and not the tobacco.

Maybe I'm just trying to justify my like of cigars, but everyone here has been right; I don't have to stop in the middle of a movie to go out for a smoke. I don't have to take a break every two hours for a cigar. I just smoke one whenever I'd like to smell the aroma. Also, that crap about cancer possibly taking root wherever the smoke touches in the mouth is ridiculous. That would mean that if you stand around smoke you could get eye cancer, skin cancer, or something else. This is a very strange article.

By brownpeter — On May 23, 2014

Cigar smoking is mostly viewed as classier than cigarette smoking. Cigarettes are very simple to smoke. The big difference is that while you are going to smoke a cigar, the smoke is not inhaled.

By anon334949 — On May 16, 2013

Another very important difference between cigarettes and cigars is that cigarettes are smoked out of habit and for the nicotine dose. (Which in itself, in these quantities is not dangerous, rather a stimulant much like caffeine). Cigars, on the other hand, are made for the enjoyment of flavors, much like you'd enjoy a great wine, a good beer or a fantastic meal. Your lungs do not contain taste buds, so cigar smoke is not to be inhaled.

Not saying that cigar smoking is therefore safe to do. There is still the secondhand smoke you 'breathe' with chances of oral cancers. But a cigar, rather than the cigarette, screams for pleasure and relaxation.

By anon304390 — On Nov 19, 2012

Who was it up there who included pot smoking as dangerous? What's that all about? No one ever died from pot or LSD. It's historical and medically proved. These two items have never killed anyone.

Now if someone is mixing in alcohol or other known killer drugs with them then sure those additional items can kill. But pot? even LSD (used by our military for over 15 years on our military as a possible truth serum until they settled on another chemical. Then they made LSD illegal!

By anon268692 — On May 15, 2012

I actually ended up here by way of looking for more info on Djarum's clove cigars, and the differences between them and the clove cigarettes they have replaced. And yes, the old 20 packs were cigarettes (I have old packaging around). I know that I don't like the cigars as well, but I have yet to find much data.

As I recall, some law in the US banned most "flavored" cigarettes, and that's when Djarum started producing the smaller packs of cigars. Of course, this has me wishing Sampoerna had done likewise with their Extras, but such is life.

By anon263485 — On Apr 24, 2012

Why are cigars so much smoother than a single cigarette?

By anon253837 — On Mar 11, 2012

I like anon's explanation better. This article reads like an ad that could be from Altria on why cigarettes are better than cigars. Hey! I hear Coca Cola and Pepsi are fixing their cancer causing ingredients. I wonder if the cigarette companies will follow suit.

By anon175618 — On May 13, 2011

I have been trying to research when clove cigars such as Djarum pack were decreased in size by eight, but the price did not change? I quit smoking them for awhile, I think in 2007 and when I started again, the packs were smaller but the price was the same. No warning or anything, and I can't find any reason why. But recently, I discovered they are $2.00 cheaper in a cigar store than anywhere else. Can anyone direct me? I keep running into Malware and blocked site warnings (thanks to chrome) Thanks!

By anon149548 — On Feb 04, 2011

I smoke three to eight cigars a month. A single cigar often contains more tobacco then one or even two entire packs of cigs. That means up to 40 times the nicotine in a single smoke. The question then arises: If nicotine is so addictive, why is it that you don't see many cigar smokers standing out in the rain with the cigarette smokers? The answers are straight ahead.

1. Cigarettes have additives that amplify the addictive quality of the cig by 10 to 100 times. Cigars have a little bit of vegetable gum or maybe oils (one dark maduro I smoke is misted with red wine to darken the leaf.) and that's it.

2. Cigar tobacco plants are usually broadleaf or something similar, while cigarette tobacco is usually from the buckley family. Two completely different species, even as to percentages of proteins versus carbs, amount of cellulose, etc. (U of K ag research) There are 4.5 sub-leased acres here on my horse farm for cigarette tobacco. I plant 600 or so plants of broadleaf cigar tobacco each year as a hobby. Believe me, there is no possible way to mistake one for the other.

It's like comparing potatoes and yams. Both are in the same family, both grow as tubers, etc., but by lumping the two together because they are in the same family, we assume they are the same.

Therefore, we should, by simple proxy of logic, be required to put the same health warnings on tomatoes, which are barely removed from tobacco.

My doctor terms me to be a non-smoker, so different are the cigars from cigarettes. She also referred me to an OSHA report that you gain far more of the harmful chemicals found in cigarettes by spending three to five minutes on a street corner next to rush hour traffic in any major metro area, especially with buses and trucks. I have no addiction. Do I get the high? You betcha? Do I have to smoke. Not at all.

Is it dangerous? Probably. But so is hard liquor. So is pot. But I'm an adult. And it's my choice.

By anon137612 — On Dec 28, 2010

how many mg of nicotine in a hand rolled cigarette compared to a cigarette? if there is any. why is it not stated on the outer package of the hand rolled cigarette?

By anon96450 — On Jul 15, 2010

How about the fact that cigarettes are loaded with extra chemicals, additives, etc to keep them together. The only thing extra in a cigar is the vegetable glue that is used to secure the wrapper to the filler.

Cigarettes are more dangerous to one's health not based on nicotine or tobacco, but due to all the extra crap they dump into cigarettes that they do not with cigars.

By anon83023 — On May 08, 2010

so cigars are more habit forming? that's weird. i just smoke them in celebration of accomplishments and cigs are a habit forming material that can become a lifestyle. God Bless everyone who reads this.

By anon49590 — On Oct 21, 2009

i inhale when i smoke cigars so they're less safe then a cigarette and anyway i use all forms of tobacco, so i smoke them just to get nicotine.

By anon34273 — On Jun 19, 2009

Are you kidding me? Their is no way cigars are more healthier than cigs. Mainly because you do not inhale them.

By anon31865 — On May 12, 2009

Cigars sound more dangerous than cigs. Funny, since very few people inhale cigars (since they are more potent puffing is sufficient, and it is too acrid for inhaling). Also, they are far less habit forming than cigs (because of cost, time involved, and the longer time to get an effect).

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