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Where there's smoke, there's cancer
After years of regulating cigarettes while ignoring cigars, the FDA is proposing tough new regulations on cigar manufacturers, saying where there's smoke, there's cancer, even if it isn't inhaled. - photo by Jennifer Graham
Where there's smoke, there's cancer, even if it isn't inhaled.

That's the position of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which is preparing to crack down on cigars because of their health risks, even as a new law makes it easier for Americans to obtain Cuban cigars.

The restrictions on Cuban cigars, considered among the world's finest, comes courtesy of Americas warming diplomatic relations with the communist Caribbean nation. Until March 16 when a new law took effect, it was illegal for Americans to buy Cuban cigars, even if they were traveling in Europe, Time reported.

But here at home, the FDA wants to ban free samples of cigars and require manufacturers to put conspicuous warnings on cigar boxes, STAT reported March 23. Among the proposed warnings: Cigar smoking can cause cancers of the mouth and throat, even if you do not inhale.

This is consistent with the National Cancer Institutes stance, which is that all tobacco products are harmful and cause cancer. On its website, the agency notes that tobacco exposure is longer for cigars than cigarettes. A cigarette takes less than 10 minutes to smoke, while it may take a person up to two hours to smoke a large cigar, the National Cancer Institute says.

While acknowledging that most cigar smokers dont inhale, and they have lower rates of lung cancer, heart disease and lung disease than cigarette smokers, the NCI says cigar smokers have higher rates of the diseases than those who don't smoke at all.

All cigar and cigarette smokers, whether or not they inhale, directly expose their lips, mouth, tongue, throat and larynx to smoke and its toxic and cancer-causing chemicals, the NCI says. In addition, when saliva containing the chemicals in tobacco smoke is swallowed, the esophagus is exposed to carcinogens. These exposures probably account for the similar oral and esophageal cancer risks seen among cigar smokers and cigarette smokers.

Despite the institutes position, the cigar industry has largely escaped the negative branding that has dogged the cigarette industry since new regulations were enacted in 2009 and it is gearing up to fight the proposals, Sheila Kaplan wrote in STAT. Cigar lobbyists have friends in Congress, where cigar smoking is banned in public places but still seen as a quiet pleasure behind closed doors. Kaplan wrote.

About 30 lawmakers smoke cigars, the executive director of Cigar Rights of America, told her. J. Glynn Loope also said his group maintains that cigars should not be subject to the same rules that govern cigarettes and e-cigarettes. "Cigars are not a path to nictotine addiction," Loope told STAT.

The National Cancer Institute disagrees, saying smokers become addicted through nicotine, whether it enters the body through the lungs or the lining of the mouth, and insisting, "A single cigar can potentially provide as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes."
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