Why Don't You Inhale Cigars?

By Michael Belcher
A business man relaxes while smoking a cigar.

Cigars have been a popular method of smoking tobacco for hundreds of years. Unlike cigarettes, cigars are made using only tobacco leaves. And unlike cigarette and shisha smoke, cigar smoke should not be inhaled because of the curing process used on the tobacco after harvesting.

Contents of Cigars

Harvested tobacco leaves are hung and dried.

Cigars are made of shredded tobacco leaves wrapped in a larger, uncut leaf. Tobacco leaves are harvested from the tobacco plant and taken to a facility, usually a barn, to be cured. The leaves can be cured in many ways, including fire-curing and flue curing, but cigar tobaccos are usually air-cured. The leaves are hung in a barn with good ventilation and left to dry until they are a dark brown color. Some of the leaves are then shredded and others are cut into strips. The shredded tobacco becomes the filler, while the strips are used to wrap the cigar. The large amount of filling tobacco, along with the lack of a filter, causes the smoke in cigars to be thicker and harder to inhale than cigarette smoke.

Cutting and Lighting a Cigar

Cigars are cut with a pipe cutter and packed into a storage box.

Cigars are usually wrapped very tightly on one end, with the other end consisting of exposed shredded tobacco leaves. The cigar is smoked through the wrapped end after it is cut off. A special tool, called a pipe cutter, can be used, but a sharp knife can be used as well. The end of the cigar should be lit evenly, and short puffs should be taken to ensure an even light. Inhaling the initial puffs of a cigar can be worse than inhaling an already lit cigar, as the heat from the light can damage the smoker's throat.

Smoking a Cigar

A groom and groomsman laugh and smoke cigars together outside.

The cigar smoke should be drawn into your mouth and held there while the tongue tastes the flavors of the tobacco. Roll the smoke around your mouth like wine and slowly exhale. The cigar's flavor depends on the tobacco used in its filler. Cigar rollers will blend different varieties of tobacco together to get a unique mixture, which gives each cigar brand a different taste. Heavily flavored cigars, particularly those that are mixed with fire-cured tobacco, produce strong aromas that inexperienced cigar smokers may not be able to easily smoke.

Composition of Cigar Smoke

A market vendor smokes a cigar in the street.

Cigar smoke, unlike cigarette smoke, is not meant to be inhaled. Cigarette tobacco is treated differently than cigar tobacco, making it easier to inhale. Cigars use relatively untreated tobacco, which has comparatively little nicotine but a slight alkali taste. Like other tobacco, cigars can cause cancer, particularly oral cancer.

About the Author

Michael Belcher has been a public relations professional since 2008 working for university groups and volunteer groups. He has a Bachelor of Science in journalism from Murray State University and is in Dublin, Ireland to finish a Master of Science in mass communications.