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  • Writer's pictureBen Balliro

Top 5 Cigar Misconceptions

Updated: Aug 19, 2020

Below is a compiled list of my own thoughts, and stereotypical misconceptions about the premium tobacco world. My goal is not to sound like some pious Roman Emperor struck with the lighting bolt of divine truth. Seriously, it's just my arguments against what some people may think about premium tobacco and specifically premium cigars. As always, I remain open to debate and argument. Anyway, with all that said and done let's get on with the show.

Misconception Number 1: Smoking Cigars are worse for your health than smoking cigarettes and just as addictive.

Well, before everyone breaks out the pitchforks and torch sticks let’s compare the two, first by ingredients list, than by societal impact. Lets start with cigarettes. When cigarettes are made they have to add chemicals to bleach the paper to make it look pretty and white, as well as smokable. You buy a pack of cigarettes and light up, but what exactly are in those little white cylinders? There was a time when the 40’s, 50’s, and all the way up to the mid eighties where not only was smoking a cigarette acceptable, but it marketed on tv and magazine ads, and even endorsed by medical doctors as a healthy vice. That all changed, however, when The Comprehensive Smoking Education Act of 1984 and the Comprehensive Smokeless Tobacco Health Education Act of 1986 federally mandated for the first time that manufacturers of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products share the ingredients with the public. Up until this time, tobacco companies were secretive about what was in cigarettes and smokeless tobacco. In fact the health risks were so severe that in November of 1994 the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement or M.S.A. was passed where an agreement was settled between the Attornies General of 46 states and the four largest tobacco companies at the time known a “The Majors”. The cigarette industry is the only industry in history to be federally mandated to not only fiscally compensate the states, in perpetuity, but also the medical bills associated with cigarette smoking. They were also federally mandated to fund their own opposition and “de-market” people from cigarette smoking; funding opposition groups such at the Truth Initiative or Needless to say there are over 600 (that is not a typo btw) ingredients that go into a making a cigarette, here is just a short list of the few ingredients to give you an idea.

According to American Lung Association here are a few of the more well known chemicals in cigarette:

• Acetone—found in nail polish remover

• Acetic acid—an ingredient in hair dye

• Ammonia—a common household cleaner

• Arsenic—used in rat poison

• Benzene—found in rubber cement and gasoline

• Butane—used in lighter fluid

• Cadmium—active component in battery acid

• Carbon monoxide—released in car exhaust fumes

• Formaldehyde—embalming fluid

• Hexamine—found in barbecue lighter fluid

• Lead—used in batteries

• Naphthalene—an ingredient in mothballs

• Methanol—a main component in rocket fuel

• Nicotine—used as an insecticide

• Tar—material for paving roads

• Toluene—used to manufacture paint

By contrast, the only ingredient added to premium cigars is; water. Although premium cigars do contain natural nicotine they do not have the same chemical addiction and dependence properties that cigarettes have on the human body.

Misconception Number 2: Premium cigars are made of tobacco and therefore are marketed to underage kids like other alternative products. The following data would disagree with this misconception.

Statistically machine made cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products are consumed by more youth today than ever in our nations history. According to or Center for Disease Control, nearly 9 out of 10 cigarette smokers first try cigarette smoking before the age of 18, and 98% first try smoking by age 26. Each day in the U.S. about 2,000 youth under 18 years of age smoke their first cigarette and more than 300 youth under 18 years of age become daily cigarette smokers. Flavorings in tobacco products i.e. machine made products can make them more appealing to youth. In 2014, 73% of high school students and 56% of middle school students who used tobacco products in the past 30 days reported using a flavored tobacco product during that time. Recent increases in the use of e-cigarettes is driving the increases in tobacco product use among youth. The number of middle and high school students using e-cigarettes rose from 2.1 million in 2017 to 3.6 million in 2018—a difference of about 1.5 million youth.

By contrast, an article written by David Savona, now executive editor for Cigar Aficionado magazine, published an article in 2016 explaining the use of cigars and youth (youth being defined as persons 12-17 year of age). The article explains that a study published by The New England Journal of Medicine and, partially funded by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, shows that children in America are not smoking handmade cigars.

The study analyzed the tobacco use of 13,651 children, ranging in age from 12 to 17 years old. The data shows that only 2.3 percent had ever smoked a traditional cigar, and less than 1 percent (0.7 percent) had tried one within the past 30 days of being surveyed.

The study tracked tobacco product use by adults and youths in the United States in 2013 and 2014. Basically it looked at the behavior of 45,971 people, 13,651 of them labeled youths. It examined tobacco products of all types, including cigarettes, e-cigarettes, cigarillos and what the study labeled “traditional” cigars, (the category that includes handmade, premium cigars). The study shows 0.2 percent of youths were found to be "frequent users" of cigars of any type, including machine-made smokes, while 0.4 percent used e-cigarettes and 1.5 percent smoked cigarettes. The study was funded as a collaboration between the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the U.S.F.D.A. Although the F.D.A was one of the organizations funding the study, not surprisingly a release about the findings does not appear in the tobacco section of the F.D.A's website.

Misconception Number 3: Secondhand smoke is a major contribution to second hand respiratory health issues.

In order to tackle this misconception, we need to understand where the highest concentration of secondhand smoke resides, so we measure it’s fullest effect. Let’s take a look at some facts.

According to during 2011–2014, 38% of children ages 3–11 years, 50% of non-Hispanic blacks, 48% of people living below the poverty level, and 39% of people living in rental housing were exposed to secondhand smoke. Premium cigar smokers were not measured in this study. According to the C.D.C. or Center for Disease Control current cigarette smoking was higher among persons with a lower annual household income than those with higher annual household incomes. About 21 of every 100 adults with an annual household income less than $35,000 (21.4%).

So yes secondhand smoke does exist, but not necessarily secondhand cancer; and certainly not from adult premium cigar smokers. Secondhand smoke, however, statistically appears to be in lower income households and environments with prevalent cigarette smoking. Although there was no mention of smokers of premium cigars, that can be attributed that to a lower income level not purchasing premium cigars because premium cigars cost more. So, if you’re going to blame second hand smoke risks, I would leave out premium cigars from this equation. The majority of secondhand cigar smoke is done at cigar events and smoking lounge where underage youths are not permitted.

Misconception Number 4. Tobacco is completely unhealthy and there are absolutely no benefits to perpetuate the habit.

Alright, lets try this one on for size. In 2008 an article published in Cigar Magazine, author Tommy Zarzesci wrote “At the University of Central FL, diabetes was cured in mice with insulin that was grown in modified tobacco plants. Experts at University of Louisville were caught using tobacco plants to develop drugs to fight cervical cancer which could reduce the cost of an existing drug from $120 per dose, down to $1. In July of that same year an issue was published in the Archives of Neurology, at UCLA a study shows some information regarding Parkinson’s disease. The study says, ‘Never smokers have about a twofold higher risk of Parkinson’s disease than ever smokers.’ That discovery was based on the research of Dr. Beate Ritz, MD and PhD at UCLA. Furthermore, Dr. Robert L. Copeland Jr. Of Howard University College of Medicine in Washington DC, researched and discovered that nicotine protects neurons that generate dopamine in the brain. Dr. Copeland Jr. states,“Parkinson’s symptoms appear after patients lost 70 to 80 percent of their dopamine making neurons.”

Now what does all this mean? Well I’m not saying that everyone should rush out to your local tobacconists and puff of a London fog cloud of cigar smoke everywhere you go, but unlike smoking highly addictive cigarettes cigars are designed to make you relax and enjoy yourself. Cigars are a premium product to be enjoyed on occasion, at work, or bringing friends and family together. When you’re relaxed you relieve stress and reducing stress is by far the greatest health benefit; as well as medicinal research to curing diseases. All I’m saying is, tobacco is not the enemy you think it is...

Last, and certainly not least.

Misconception Number 5. Cigar smokers are just greedy old men who’s only lot in life is to stink up the planet and give nothing back to society.

Again, I’m going to have to disagree...

I wrote an article on titled Salus Populi Suprema Lex Esto. It means the safety (health and welfare) of the people should be the supreme law. The article talks about how some of the most world renowned cigar makers are contributing back to making this world a better place, not just chasing profits by selling cigars and lighters. For example, The Fuente Family Foundation, started by the Arturo Fuente family many years ago, is a supporter of the Cigar Family Charitable Foundation or C.F.C.F., St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, the Dan Marino Foundation, and several other philanthropic organizations. In fact just this past April the Fuente family hosted a charity fundraising dinner in NYC and all proceeds go towards the C.F.C.F. with the express purpose of improving impoverished communities in the Dominican Republic. While the Dominican Republic is one of the largest exporters of handmade cigars to the United States, it remains a poor, rural country in need of aid, and the C.F.C.F. has raised millions of dollars since it began in 2001.

World renowned magazine Cigar Aficionado is an avid supporter of local and national charity foundations hosting annual events such as Els for Autism Pro-Am; a charity that Ernie Els pro golfer started to raise money and awareness for autism; having raised an autistic son with his own family. ProCigar is an organization headed by Henke Kelner (former tobacco blender for Davidoff Oettinger Group) that raises money every year to help impoverished children and the elderly. Last year at the ProCigar festival in the Dominican Republic they raised over $150,000 towards various charities.

One of the most infamous cigar charities is Cigars For Warriors. Founded in 2012 this organization serves as a conduit to provide premium cigars and accessories to American service men & women all over the world.

So you see ladies and gentlemen we, the mass cigar smoking population, are not the greedy stinky bastards you think we are. We absolutely care about our friends, our family, and helping those less fortunate communities in this day and age. All we ask, is the ability to keep producing and enjoying a luxury product in peace and quiet, without the constraints of government overreach and regulations.

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