So, you’re wondering which is better — cigars vs. cigarettes? How different are they? And which is better? You might even be wondering if there’s a comparison at all.

The truth is that these are two very different products when it comes to how you smoke them and why. Even the contents differ. Surprised?

You might also be surprised by what’s in them both. So, what exactly are the contents in cigars and cigarettes?

Cigars vs Cigarettes – What’s in Them?

Cigar contents

  • Filler tobacco leaves
  • Binder tobacco leaves
  • Wrapper tobacco leaves

Cigarette contents

  • Tobacco blend
  • Paper
  • Microplastic fiber filter
  • Hundreds of additives
Glass Top Handcrafted Cedar Humidor

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In essence, a cigar is all tobacco, and a cigarette is not. Well, there’s a bit more to it, but that’s the general gist.

A cigar consists of a binder, a filler, and a wrapper. These all consist of tobacco leaves.

The filling is the finer stuff in the core of the cigar. The binder leaves are what holds it together. Lastly, the wrapper finishes it off and helps it burn at the proper rate.

In a proper cigar, there are no additives. Plus, the finely selected combination of tobacco leaves gives it a rich flavor.

A cigarette, on the other hand, contains a blend of chopped tobacco wrapped in paper. Commercial cigarettes infamously contain hundreds of questionable additives in both the tobacco and the paper. In fact, some brands use nicotine-infused paper shreds rather than real tobacco.

Regarding cigars vs. cigarettes, this is one point to the cigars.

Leather Black Cigarette Case Holds 20 Cigarette

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Nicotine content


Whether you’re worried about or in search of nicotine, the amount of nicotine is a central part of the cigars vs. cigarettes question.

It’s true that a typical cigar contains more than 10 or 20 times as much nicotine as a typical cigarette. A normal cigarette contains between 7 and 10 milligrams of nicotine, while a light cigarette usually has 5 or 6.

Typically, cigars hold 100 to 200 milligrams of nicotine. However, you won’t inhale this nicotine. No conclusive studies we found compare nicotine absorption from cigars vs. cigarettes.

The Smoking Act

Smoking a cigarette and smoking a cigar are two completely different things. Actually, every step of the process is different.

A cigarette, you can pull out of the pack, puff on it once or twice while bringing a flame to the end to light it, and then inhale. It stays lit, and you keep dragging and inhaling for a few minutes to get your nicotine fix, and that’s it.

So, you may be wondering, what’s the difference in smoking cigars vs. cigarettes?

Well, a cigar takes some finesse. First, you must cut about 1/16 inches off the end. Next, you start lighting it.

Now, the flame should never directly touch the cigar. You hold the cigar just above it and keep rotating it while puffing to get it started. It’ll take at least around 10 seconds before the whole end glows red and you can remove the flame.

Once lit, the cigar will last you for between 30 minutes and an hour. So, have a puff and savor the rich smoke before blowing it out.

You don’t inhale cigar smoke, you simply roll it around in your mouth and let it go. So, if you’re used to cigarettes and try to smoke a cigar the same way, you’ll be coughing a lot and won’t have a very good time.

Also, please note that it’s best to keep rotating the cigar once or twice per minute as you smoke. This helps to keep the ember going evenly.

Smoking a cigar

  • Requires cutting
  • Slowly lit over indirect flame
  • No inhaling
  • Savor the smoke
  • Up to an hour of puffing

Smoking a cigarette

  • Light the end
  • Inhale the smoke
  • Lasts for a few minutes
  • Hundreds of additives

Cultural Aspects of Cigars vs. Cigarettes

If you imagine typical scenarios of cigar smoking and cigarette smoking, what do you see? Whether you’re drawing from real life or caricatures and stereotypes in movies, the difference is clear.

Usually, cigars bring the mind to sophisticated settings and celebration. You may picture wealthy men in fancy suits smoking cigars in their exclusive clubs. Or perhaps you’re thinking of someone smoking a victory cigar or the tradition where men smoke to celebrate becoming a father.

So, cigars vs. cigarettes is a bit like fancy vs. casual.

Cigars are usually something people smoke on special occasions. Even avid cigar enthusiasts rarely smoke more than once a day. It’s more about the aroma rather than getting a nicotine fix.

Sure, cigarettes also had an air of sophistication to them in the early days of Hollywood. However, people have very different associations with cigarettes these days.

Around 14 percent of American adults smoke, and that’s lower than the world average of 20 percent. Also, cigarette smoking is more common among the poor and underprivileged.

Plus, a cigarette is usually something you smoke to feed an addiction. Meanwhile, the taste and smell are something you put up with, not something to enjoy.

Cigars

  • Fancy connotations
  • Smoked in celebration
  • Refined taste
  • Popular among the wealthy

Cigarettes

  • Smoked for nicotine, not taste
  • Associated with addiction
  • Most common among the working class

Pricing

AMANCY Top Quality 3- Finger Brown Leather Cigar Case

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While cigars are more luxurious, they don’t have to be very expensive. Although the really fancy ones may cost $30 to $50, cheap ones can cost as little as $2. And there’s plenty of room between those extremes to find a happy medium.

A pack of 20 cigarettes is around $7 or $8 on average. So, it’s well below a dollar per smoke. So, if you’re in it for the nicotine cravings, cigarettes are usually the better option.

Hard Box Full Pack Cigarette Case

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However, a cigar for the same price may technically contain more nicotine. More importantly, there’s the smoking time of cigars vs. cigarettes.

While a cigarette only lasts for a few minutes, a cigar can last for an hour. If you’d continually puff cigarettes the way one puffs a cigar, the pack would run out around the same time.

So, cigarettes are definitely cheaper if you’re a habitual smoker. However, if you only like to smoke on special occasions, it’s pretty much a tie.

Typical cigar

  • $8 to $20
  • 100 to 200 milligrams of nicotine
  • 30 to 60 minutes of smoking time

Typical cigarettes

  • $5 to $10 for a pack of 20
  • 7 to 10 milligrams of nicotine per cigarette
  • 2 to 5 minutes of smoking per cigarette

What About the Side Effects?

You can’t discuss cigars vs. cigarettes, or anything about smoking, without raising questions about the health risks. And yes, there’s a major difference between cigars vs. cigarettes.

Well, a cigar contains more nicotine than a single cigarette. That’s simple math.

However, cigarette smokers can easily go through a pack or more a day, which would total more than the content of one cigar. It’s worth repeating that a cigar is usually for occasional use, not something you smoke all day every day.

Have you ever seen someone compulsively reach for a cigar once an hour? Has anyone hassled you for a cigar on the street?

Also, nicotine is only one piece of the puzzle. The hundreds of additives in cigarettes turn into thousands of different chemicals during combustion.

At least 69 of those can cause cancer. Plus, many of them are very toxic or problematic in other ways. Far from all the risks of smoking are about nicotine.

Cigars

  • May cause oral and dental problems
  • Slight risk of cancer
  • Only tobacco
  • No inhaling
  • Infrequent smoking

Cigarettes

  • May cause oral and dental problems
  • May cause lung and throat problems
  • Associated with almost every type of cancer
  • Highly addictive
  • Lots of additives
  • Inhaled into the lungs
  • Usually smoked throughout the day

To inhale or not to inhale?


Remember, you don’t normally inhale cigar smoke. Therefore, the smoke isn’t as harmful.

The common lung problems associated with smoking happen due to repeated inhalation of smoke. Nicotine, tar, and other harmful elements of tobacco smoke can’t affect your body nearly as much without access to those sensitive lungs.

Also, it’s much harder for toxins to enter the bloodstream through the tissues in your mouth than the practically non-existent barriers in your lungs. After all, your mouth has to deal with countless substances every time you take a bite of food and keep them from contaminating your system.

According to a recent FDA study, the relative risks of cancer from cigar smoking are lower than previously assumed. But the same is not true for cigarettes, which only seem more and more dangerous after each scientific study.

In terms of cigars vs. cigarettes, that’s another point to cigars.

Pros and Cons

Cigar pros

  • They last for a long time
  • Many rich aromas to explore
  • Associated with sophistication
  • No inhaling
  • Great for special occasions

Cigar cons

  • May be pretty costly
  • Require proper storage
  • Less convenient
  • Possible health risks

Cigarette pros

  • They’re cheap
  • Quick and easy to smoke
  • Available everywhere
  • Easy to bring with you

Cigarette cons

  • The smell
  • The aftertaste
  • Sore lungs and throat
  • Inhaling mystery chemicals
  • Significant health risks

Closing Thoughts on Cigars vs. Cigarettes

As you can see, cigars and cigarettes are completely different things. While they’re both tobacco products intended for smoking, the exact purpose and procedure differ significantly.

A cigar isn’t something you whip out while waiting for the bus. Instead, it’s something you light up when you want to enjoy yourself for some time. Also, there are many different kinds to try, and they all taste different.

Like good wine and whiskey, proper cigars are something you’ll want to explore a bit to find your favorites. It’s all about enjoying the good things in life.

Don’t know where to start? Look here to learn about the best cigars that you should try.

Do you have any questions? Feel free to ask in the comment section below.

Featured Image by Sludge G from Flickr

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