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Can you get addicted to cigars?

Yes, cigars can trigger dependence on nicotine and you can experience side effects nicotine withdrawal when you stop smoking them. How is addiction to cigars possible? And what are the signs of cigar addiction. We explore here.

Psychoactive ingredients of cigars

Cigars deliver a wide range of chemicals which can modify behavior. These include nicotine, acetaldehyde, and carbon monoxide … although only nicotine is available in high enough quantities to trigger dependence. Most cigars contain as much nicotine as several cigarettes, although nicotine levels range from the equivalent of a single cigarette to an entire pack of cigarettes.

What does nicotine do in the body?

Cigars provide high levels of nicotine exposure, whether or not you inhale the smoke. When you smoke cigars, nicotine is absorbed through the mucosal membranes and reaches the brain more slowly than cigarettes. But the effect is the same. Each puff is like a “hit” of nicotine to the brain, which creates physical side effects.

Nicotine stimulates the adrenal glands and results in a discharge of epinephrine (adrenaline). This rush of adrenaline stimulates the body and causes an increase in blood pressure, respiration, and heart rate. Nicotine also promotes the release of the hormone beta-endorphin, which inhibits pain. Finally, nicotine triggers the same reward system as other drugs and can induce feelings of pleasure and, over time, addiction. Some of the effects of nicotine include:

  • enhanced mental performance
  • feelings of pleasure
  • increased alertness
  • increased heart rate
  • increased blood pressure
  • inhibited pain sensations
  • restricted blood flow to the heart

Cigars and nicotine delivery

Cigars contain and deliver psychoactive doses of nicotine. Still, cigars vary in the dosing amount and availability of nicotine based on a few variables. But what factors influence the delivery and absorption of nicotine in the body?

1. First, the cigar preparation itself can be engineered to contain more or less nicotine. Tobacco strain, growing conditions, and the pH of nicotine preparations affect the amount of nicotine available from cigars. In fact, the higher the pH of cigar tobacco and cigar smoke, the higher proportion of the nicotine available for absorption via the mouth, nose, and throat.

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2. Secondly, the manner in which a person smokes a cigar also affects nicotine delivery. Although inhalation makes nicotine more readily available, nicotine can also be absorbed through the walls of the mouth or lips as you hold cigar smoke in your mouth or taste the tobacco with your lips and tongue.

Factors that influence nicotine delivery include:

  • mode of administration (holding smoke in mouth, inhaling, chewing on tip, etc.)
  • pH of cigar brands
  • tobacco growing condition
  • tobacco strain

Signs of cigar addiction

Addiction to cigars is clinically diagnosed when you become dependent on nicotine. Nicotine dependence is characterized by both tolerance and withdrawal symptoms in relation to nicotine use. The first symptoms of nicotine dependence can appear within days to weeks of the onset of occasional tobacco use, often before the onset of daily smoking. Psychiatrists are trained to diagnose cigar addiction, and use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition, Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR)to evaluate the criteria required for diagnosis of nicotine dependence. Cigar smokers must demonstrate at least three of the following criteria occurring at the same time during a 12-month period in order to be diagnosed as nicotine dependent, or addicted to cigars:

1. A great deal of time is spent in obtaining or using cigars (e.g., chain smoking).

2. A persistent desire is present or attempts to cut down on cigars are unsuccessful.

3. Cigar smokers need more nicotine to produce the same desired effect or experience less smoking the same amount of nicotine.

4. Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are reduced because of tobacco use.

5. Nicotine is used in larger amounts or over a longer period than intended.

6. Smoking cigars continues despite recurrent physical or psychological problems caused by tobacco.

7. Withdrawal symptoms are present when cigars are discontinued or reduced.

People addicted to cigars experience withdrawal symptoms from nicotine when they stop smoking. Withdrawal from nicotine usually diminish within 3-4 weeks, but some symptoms may persist for months after your last cigar. But in addition to physical symptoms of withdrawal, there are also some warning signs that may signal you are BECOMING DEPENDENT on cigars.

Are you addicted to cigars?

If you find that you meet some of the above criteria, it is possible that you have a cigar addiction. Addiction is a medical illness, and can be treated with both medications and psychological help. If you think that you are addicted to cigars and have questions about diagnosis or treatment, please leave your questions here. We will be happy to respond and help you find the help that you need to quit smoking cigars.

Your feedback is welcomed!

Reference sources: Pharmacology and Abuse Potential of Cigars
Research Report Series Tobacco Addiction
NIDA Notes Facts about Nicotine

Photo credit: alexbrn

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12 Responses to “Can you get addicted to cigars?
Will
2:51 pm September 15th, 2011

Very interesting read. Many people leave cigars out of the topics of addiction for the most part.

Nadine Osborn
2:55 am September 14th, 2012

My husband smokes cigars like cigs. He has done this for many years. He doesn’t see the mood alterations when he doesn’t smoke but I do. He has tried to quit (so he says). He has periodontal gum disease and is too young to lose his teeth and be in dentures. I worry about kissing him and its in his saliva and I get the residual too. He exercises everyother day but says he is having a harder time getting past a certain point with workouts. Doesn’t believe me when i say his smoking could have altered his performance. Please help me so i can share with him! Thank you

1:07 pm September 14th, 2012

Hello Nadine. I’d suggest that you speak with your family doctor about your concerns and schedule an intervention with your husband. You don’t want to corner him and make him feel defensive, but you do want to express your concern about his smoking.

Jeff
1:16 pm September 14th, 2012

Hey Nadine.. Just please remember, until he is ready to quit in both his heart and mind he will not be able to quit. When I smoked I knew it was a nasty habit, I knew it was offensive, I knew it was bad for me and I wanted to quit but it was not until I was 100% committed that I was going to quit was I able to get free from the chains the nicotine had on me. I give God the glory and praise for giving me the strength each and every day.. One more suggestion is to look at a picture of a healthy lung and a smokers lung at least once a day.. Very powerful!!

Nadine Osborn
12:12 am September 20th, 2012

its sad really because my hands are tied and i cant help him and that hurts. his friends/wives do reg cigs and he is around that and it doesn’t help even if he wanted to quit. he tells me i am the only one that doesn’t like it! His friends are fine with it! those comments are hurtful. .. like its me that has the problem. he says god is working on him…do i believe what he says?? Maybe not cuz he just got his teeth cleaned and told the gal that he only smokes one cigar a day…NOT! The odor doesnt come out your nose when you breathe if its just 1 time a day and you “say” you don’t inhale. Sorry for venting….its really hard when you Love someone so much and all you want them to do is Love you enough! And to not want the addiction either. Iv been Praying for him…

Jeff
12:27 pm October 22nd, 2012

I my humble opinion your hands are not tied!!!! You are doing the best thing you could do and that is pray for him. Pray for him to have the desire to quit. Pray for him to ask God to give him the strength to quit. The Bible says our body is the temple of God… It does not say our soul is the temple of God. Again, in my opinion, it says this because he desires us to be healthy in every way. No one is perfect and I can assure you your husband will at some point put down the cigars or wish he would have. Support him, love him, and remind him you want him around for as many years as possible. I might also encourage you to read Proverbs. Powerful book and who knows, he might see your excitement in reading it and want to read it also.

Wilbert
3:41 pm November 15th, 2012

Thanks, Nick. I might want to have a look at the iPhone app, myself. Good to know that’s there.

Margaret Moore
8:40 pm March 11th, 2013

Hello. I have a friend with who I live with. I know he smoke cigars ona daily basis. He hides this and wont admit to it. I find boxes and wrappers on a daily basis but he wont admit to smoking these. What are the big signs hes addicted. He at the most strangest times need to go to the store/errand. Please tell me what to do to get him to see how addicted he is

5:00 pm April 12th, 2013

Hello Margaret. Denial is a strong wall to break. To intervene, stick to the facts and report exactly what you observe. Talk about your concerns openly, and see if you might be able to crack a hole in your roommate’s armor through compassion.

Dave L.
4:27 am July 1st, 2014

Nonsense. This is written by a non cigar smoker obviously. I love smoking cigars, but have quit for economic reasons. Outside of possibly a little fatigue there are no withdrawal symptoms. I get tired of the deluge of anti-tobacco information that vilify cigars and pipes on the same level as cigarettes. Cigarettes are the garbage of the tobacco world.

mmark
4:46 pm January 20th, 2015

i stop smoking cigars ..wow i was so sick….could not think.scared to death….
did not even go out side…3 days later a bit better.
after i smoked i was so relaxed…told my friend they make me lazy as hell.he went on to cigarettes.
he tried to get me smoking them i would snap the in half every time he gave me one.some friend..he had quit for 2 years.sad he went back.me im done with cigars ……..

ART
12:34 pm June 7th, 2016

Guess I’m lucky. Been smoking cigars since I was 14, now 62. No health problems. Very relaxing, not for everyone. Lots get sick. Would rather puff on cigars than take ‘happy drugs’. Never smoke around anyone or animals. Have a great day, do what you enjoy.

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