ADA rolls out anti-Cigar
Campaign across country
Use on the upswing;cancer dangers are real

Like millions of other young professionals in the United States, Scott McPherson likes to sit back at the end of a hard week at work and reward himself with a long, slow draw off a premium cigar. 

"It really has a relaxing appeal to it," explains Scott, a 37-year-old Chicagoan who owns his own political consulting business.

"It's like cognac. It's a luxury."

Scott picked up the habit three years ago—the same year the cigar industry marked a turnaround in U.S. consumption After a 20-year decline, cigar sales rose from 3.4 billion in 1993 to 3.7 billion in 1994. Since then, sales have increased steadily.

The Cigar Association of America estimates that last year U.S. consumers picked up 4.4 billion cigars.

"I think what we're seeing with the upsurge in cigar use is a rebellion against the public health campaigns of the late '80s and early '9Os," says Dr. Greg Connolly, an ADA spokesperson on tobacco issues and director, Massachusetts Tobacco Control Program. 

To curtail the popularity of yet another tobacco product in the marketplace the ADA launched an offensive last month. 

More than 600 media outlets received materials outlining the Association's objection to the glamorization of cigars by celebrities.

The media blitz included a video news release featuring Dr. Connolly that concentrated or the hazards of oral cancer and the health risks associated with cigars.

"Many people see cigars as a safe alternative to cigarettes," explains Dr. Connolly.

"We want to continue to send the message out loud and clear that there is no safe tobacco product." after the media had an opportunity to review the Association's position—Dr. Connolly fielded questions from nearly 30 television stations during a three-hour satellite media conference that allowed coverage from major mar-kets like Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York City.

A primary concern of Dr. Connolly and others who watch trends in tobacco use is that the pop-ularity of cigars will filter down to young people. He cites one study thathas monitored cigar consumption in 10 U.S. communities. Between 1989 and 1993, Dr. Connolly notes, researchers reported a doubling of the cigar consumption by boys aged 12 to 17 years.

"One only has to look hack at the use of smokeless tobacco among teens to see that we can't afford to overlook the popularity of cigars and the appeal they might have for this group," Dr. Connolly explains.

Many cigar smokers, including Scott McPherson, consider themselves casual cigar smokers, smoking one or two cigars a week.

"I'm not really concerned over the health risks of an occasional cigar," Scott says.

But perhaps he should be. 

According to the San Diego and Imperial County branch of the American Lung Association, cigars can be addictive. The association reports that the average cigarette contains about 1.1 milligrams of nicotine while the average cigar can boast anywhere from 10 to 400 times that amount. "You only need to look at the size of a cigar to see how much more tobacco you are smoking compared to a cigarette," Dr. Connolly points out, "and whether you inhale or not you are taking in nicotine '

And if your patients aren't concerned about getting hooked on tobacco, the American Cancer Society provides a number of statis-tics that might be of interest to those with a penchant for the occasional cigar:

  • Cigar smokers have four to 10 times the risk of dying from oral, laryngeal and esophageal cancers as nonsmokers.
  • The risk of lung cancer in those who smoke cigars is three times that of nonsmokers.
  • Cancer death rates among men who smoke cigars are 34 percent higher them among their nonsmoking peers.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention not only hack up these statistics but also report higher rates of emphysema and chronic obstructive lung disease among men who fell for the luxury of cigars.

"The best thing dentists can do for then patients is ask about tobacco use, advise them about the health risks and assist them in quitting," says Dr. Connolly.