Cigars Are No Better

May 15, 2015

By Medical Discovery News

Person smoking a cigarette

A common argument made by those who smoke cigars is that they are safer than cigarettes.  However, several studies argue that this is not true.

Cigar smoking has increased dramatically in the U.S. Between 2000 and 2011, small cigar sales rose 65 percent and large cigar sales increased 233 percent. Americans smoked more than 13 million cigars in 2010, twice the number from 2000. About 13.4 million people age 12 or older smoke cigars. A cigar culture has arisen, with cigar bars or clubs, shops with walk-in humidors, and magazines for those who consider themselves cigar connoisseurs. Their use among sports figures and celebrities has made them seem fashionable or sophisticated, a symbol of status or success.

The tobacco in cigars is cured and fermented to enhance the flavor, but this process also increases the amounts of harmful ingredients. Cigars come in three basic sizes, but the classic cigars are the large ones that contain more than half an ounce of tobacco, and some contain as much as an entire pack of cigarettes.

Just like cigarettes, cigars contain nicotine and can be very addictive. Most people who smoke cigars do not inhale, and therefore the nicotine is absorbed more slowly. However, cigar smoke dissolves more easily in saliva than cigarette smoke, enhancing the amount of nicotine absorbed.  Smokers absorb one to two milligrams of nicotine out of the eight total milligrams in cigarettes. The large cigars contain anywhere from 100 to over 400 milligrams of nicotine, and the amount a person absorbs varies greatly depending on how long the cigar is smoked, how many puffs are taken, and how much smoke is inhaled. Second- and third-hand cigar smoke is dangerous, just like it is with cigarettes.

In one study, scientists measured the levels of two biomarkers for tobacco as well as arsenic and lead in over 25,000 cigar smokers. Cigar smokers had higher levels of these carcinogens than nonsmokers and equal levels to cigarette smokers. Overall, the study found that cigars are not safer than cigarettes. Cigar smokers are less likely to develop lung cancer than cigarette smokers, but they are at higher risks of developing other cancers.

Those who inhale while smoking cigars are more likely to develop laryngeal cancer, lung cancer, bladder cancer, pancreatic cancer, and cancers of the tongue, mouth, or throat than nonsmokers. Even those who don’t inhale the smoke directly still inhale the secondhand smoke and are at an increased risk of lung cancer. Cigar smokers are four to 10 times more likely to die from cancers of the mouth, larynx, and esophagus than nonsmokers.

Cigar smoking also increases the risk of other diseases including emphysema, chronic bronchitis, heart attacks, gum disease, and erectile dysfunction. One long-term study determined that cigar or pipe smoking costs people 10 years on average – they spent an extra five years in bad health and died five years earlier.

So before you take up cigars in an attempt to look cool, ask yourself if your image is more important than your health.

For a link to this story, click here.

Dark Secrets of Medicine Shows

Aug. 23, 2013

By Medical Discovery Shows

It’s hard to believe that people used to drink snake oil as a “universal remedy,” or rely on a patent medicine called Mugwumps to prevent sexually transmitted diseases.

Yet, from colonial times to the 1900s, people would unquestionably turn to such “cures.” Patent medicines were sold directly to a patient from the manufacturer without a prescription through mail order, in shops, and in traveling medicine shows. They were trademarked (which is not the same as today’s patenting) by the seller yet untested and unregulated, and as such, rarely worked as advertised. Eventually, people even used the term snake oil salesman as a synonym for a fraudster.

Among the early patent medicines to arrive in America were Daffy’s Elixir Salutis for “colic and griping,” Dr. Bateman’s Pectoral Drops and John Hooper’s Female Pills. These and many other remedies were available for just about any ailment and often made outlandish claims of their effectiveness. An interesting study revisited these patent medicines to discover just what they contained and if they could have lived up to the hype.

At a meeting of the American Chemical Society, the research team headed by Dr. Mark Benvenuto presented their examination of patent medicines from the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich. They tested 50 of the hundreds of such medicines in the museum’s Health Aids collection.

Patent medicines were produced long before the advent of the Food and Drug Administration’s regulations and testing standards. Many patent medicines were based on vegetable extracts along with abundant amounts of alcohol. Others contained dangerous substances such as opium, cocaine, heroin, mercury, silver, arsenic, or even the radioactive element thorium. Sadly, some of these potent concoctions were used to treat babies for colic or fussiness, sometimes with tragic results. 

But some were found to contain some substances that could actually be healthy. For example, Dr. F.G. Johnson’s French Female pills contained iron, calcium, and zinc, all of which are common supplements taken by people today. However, these pills also contained potentially toxic lead.

The patent medicine industry flourished during the Industrial Revolution due to the progress of manufacturing, advertisements in newspapers and magazines, and a general distrust of conventional medical care at the time. That started to change when journalist Samuel Hopkins Adams wrote a series of articles for Collier’s Weekly in 1905 entitled “The Great American Fraud,” exposing the industry’s fraudulent and deceitful practices and unsafe manufacturing processes. In 1906, with the strong support of then President Teddy Roosevelt, Congress passed the Pure Food and Drug Act. Drug laws have continued to evolve and in 2002, over-the-counter medications were required to print a “Drug Facts” label. 

While traveling medicine shows have disappeared, advertisements for herbal supplements with improbable claims for rapid weight loss and sexual enhancement litter magazines and TVs. Just as they do now, scientists 100 years in the future will probably wonder what we were thinking!

For a link to this story, click here.