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Cigar Smoking

Cigar smoking is an increasingly popular activity, often associated with luxury and wealth. There is a view that cigar smoking is less dangerous to your health than smoking a cigarette because you do not inhale the smoke. There is however a lot of tobacco in a cigar - often as much as a whole pack of cigarettes - and the smoke from a cigar can fill the air in a room for many hours. Despite a ban on smoking in enclosed public places, there are still many locations in the UK where you might be exposed to cigar smoke. So, if you are in charge of a place where cigars are smoked, you will need to take measures to protect people from the potentially harmful impact of cigar smoke.

FAQ about Cigar Smoke:

What does cigar smoke contain?

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Cigar smoke is complex because cigar tobacco leaves are aged and then fermented. This is why they are so different from cigarettes. Cigar smoke contains many aromatic compounds, which is why some people enjoy smoking them. However, many components of cigar smoke are harmful to health, particularly the tobacco-specific, N-nitrosamines (TSNAs) which are carcinogenic. The analysis shows there are higher levels of TSNAs in cigar smoke than in cigarette smoke, because of the way a cigar is made. Other toxins and irritants in cigar smoke include:

  • Carbon monoxide
  • Hydrogen cyanide
  • Ammonia
  • Aldehydes, including formaldehyde
  • Benzene, a known carcinogen
  • Aromatic amines, also known carcinogens
  • Polyaromatic aromatic hydrocarbons, which are also known carcinogens

Where can you legally smoke cigars indoors in the UK, besides your own home?

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On 1 July 2007, smoking was banned in enclosed or 'substantially enclosed' public places in England by the Smoke-Free (Premises and Enforcement) Regulations (similar bans had already been introduced in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland). This means that you can still smoke in your own home, in hotel rooms, (though many hotels are now totally non-smoking), care homes, outdoors, in your car (but not in a public transport, taxi or a mini-cab) and in a public room, so long as it is not substantially enclosed.

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When bans were introduced in various countries (and many organisations had smoking bans before they were introduced nationally), smokers began to huddle outdoors to indulge, seeking out doorways or car parks. Then pubs, fearful of losing customers, began to make the outdoor smoking spaces cosier by introducing shelter and heaters. That, in turn, led to the evolution of the cosy/comfortable outdoor smoking area (COSA) which is a terrace where smokers, including cigar smokers, can go. There are now a growing number of COSAs, often in luxury venues like top hotels, in London and around the country.

To comply with the law, the COSA or smoking terrace must be open enough not to form a 'substantially enclosed' public space. That is, it can have a roof (which can be fixed or moveable, like a canvas awning) and walls but the openings in the walls are more than half of the total area of the walls (this is known as the 50 per cent rule) in the 'substantially enclosed' public space. These openings cannot include doors or windows that can be open or shut. A tent or marquee can be classified as enclosed if it does not comply with the 50 per cent rule. So people designing a cigar terrace need to make sure that the openings in the structure comply with the 50 per cent rule and allow sufficient ventilation from the smoke.

Can you smoke in a shop where they sell cigars?

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You can smoke a cigar to test it, if you buy at least one, in a specialist tobacconist that sells cigars. 

Why has the government allowed cigar smoking to continue, if smoking in public places has been banned?

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This is just the way the law has been set out. It states that the rule on smoking applies to 'enclosed' or 'substantially enclosed' public places. There are many locations that escape this definition.

Why is breathing in second-hand cigar smoke bad for you?

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Cigarette smokers have a 70 per cent higher risk of premature death compared with non-smokers. Cigar smokers have a 10 per cent higher risk. It is lower because cigar smokers tend not to inhale the smoke, while a cigarette smoker does. So they are exposed to less of the tar and other harmful substances in the smoke. However, a cigar smoker still inhales the smoke from the tip of the cigar, being very close to it. A UK study of over 7,700 men aged between 40 and 59 years concluded that cigar smokers have a higher risk of heart disease, stroke and overall total mortality compared to non-smokers.

Meanwhile, second-hand smoke increases the risk of lung cancer among non-smokers by 20 to 30 per cent, according to the UK's Scientific Committee on Tobacco & Health, whether that smoke comes from pipes, cigars or cigarettes. Moreover, the sidestream smoke from a cigar is more polluting to the atmosphere than the sidestream smoke from a cigarette, for equal amounts of tobacco smoked.

What are the laws protecting staff from a customer's second-hand cigar smoke?

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The law introduced in 2007, described means that virtually all workplaces have to be smoke-free and employers are liable to fines up to £2,500 if they fail to prevent smoking on their premises. 

How can cigar smoke be removed from a room?

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Fresh cigar smoke may smell beautifully aromatic to some people, but no one likes the smell of stale smoke clinging to clothes, furniture and carpet. Added to that there are the health risks of exposure to second-hand smoke that have been described above. So it is important to have a method for removing or reducing smoke from any environment where smoking cigars are permissible.

One approach is to remove the air with an exhaust fan and have an inlet for fresh air to replace the exhausted air. Here an exhaust fan should have a CFM (cubic feet per minute) rating that can cope with the volume of air in the room. In other words, the bigger the room, the higher the CFM needs to be. Unfortunately, this approach finds less favour with people during the winter months, when cold air is brought indoors. Conventional heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are ineffective at removing cigar smoke from an indoor environment, and care has to be taken to make sure that smoke does not back draught through the system into neighbouring rooms.

The other approach is to purify the air that is in the room and recycle it through an air purifier. Cigar smoke is a complex mixture of tiny particles and gaseous molecules. To remove it completely, two types of technology are needed. A High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter to trap the tiny particles (including viruses, bacteria and allergens) and a mixture of high grade activated carbon and potassium permanganate impregnated alumina to remove the gaseous molecules. The IQAir GC or GCX MultiGas have both types of technology, but also adds a third layer of protection in the form of an electrostatically charged sleeve to further remove pollution. The GC MultiGas was even recommended by Cigar Aficionado Magazine, and they should know a thing or two about cigar smoke!

It is also important to have the smoking room well insulated, so the smoke never leaves the room. People who don't smoke can often smell smoke coming from many rooms away. Have a door jamb so the space beneath the door and the floor are sealed and make sure any windows are well-insulated. Smoke rises and can exit the room through light fixtures on the ceiling. Wall sconce lighting avoids this.