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FAQ: Can You Inhale Cigar Smoke? Why You Shouldn't Inhale Cigars

FAQ: Can You Inhale Cigar Smoke? Why You Shouldn't Inhale Cigars

For today’s FAQ, we take a look at a common misconception for newcomers to the cigar scene: to inhale, or not to inhale. This question is often asked by cigarette smokers that are crossing over to cigars or by someone looking to get into the hobby that wants to have all their bases covered.

Traditionally, cigar smokers don’t inhale. 

Inhaling is uncomfortable and significantly increases the hazards associated with cigar smoking.  And, there’s no reason to inhale cigar smoke!  Unlike cigarettes, we absorb nicotine from a cigar within the mucus membranes of the mouth, not the lungs. 

This is directly opposing to cigarettes, where a study found that virtually no nicotine was absorbed without inhaling the cigarette. It’s believed that the alkaline nature of cigar tobacco is what allows it to be absorbed orally.

What are the health risks of inhaling cigars?

In the late 80’s we discovered that inhaling cigar smoke (or not) was the one of the largest indicators of health risks. Prior to this study, cigar smokers were separated as being previous cigarette smokers or not. That’s how big of a distinction inhaling makes.  By inhaling a cigar, you are considered more at risk than someone who used to smoke cigarettes exclusively.

Cigar smoke contains between two and four times the amount of Carbon Monoxide of unfiltered cigarettes, more than twice the amount of Carbon Dioxide of unfiltered cigarettes, twice the amount of Hydrogen Cyanide of unfiltered cigarettes, and between six and nine times the amount of Isoprene of unfiltered cigarettes. 

Inhaling cigar smoke is arguably worse than cigarette smoke, as cigar smoke is more potent even without the additives that cigarette companies are known for.

Then what does it mean to retro hale? 

Retro haling a cigar involves pulling cigar smoke into your mouth and exhaling it through your nose.  This method involves the nasal passages to increase your sense of taste and enhance your cigar experience.  At no point in time does cigar smoke enter the lungs. 

Infographic Showing How to Smoke a Cigar without Inhaling

Depending on your tolerance level and the cigar that you’re smoking, it might be unpleasant to exhale cigar smoke through your nose for the first time.  It’s recommended to exhale most of the cigar smoke through your mouth first, reducing the intensity.

This is considered an advanced method of cigar smoking and shouldn’t be considered until you know the ropes.  Even then, there is a large group of cigar smokers that don't retro hale.  

The short and skinny:

It is never recommended to inhale cigar smoke.  If you’re introducing friends to the hobby for the first time, please discuss the health risks of cigar smoke and show them how to properly smoke a cigar


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