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David Savona

Do You Smoke?

Posted: Sep 19, 2013 1:30pm ET

I was filling out paperwork for a doctor's visit and I came to the question about smoking. This is typically a complicated answer on my part, and I bet, on yours as well.

The usual boilerplate is written something like this:

Q: Do you smoke? Check yes or no.
Q: If you checked ‘yes,' how many cigarettes do you smoke?

When this happens, I take out my pen and give a detailed answer.

Yes, I smoke, but I only smoke cigars—and I smoke them often. Aside from a couple of ill-fated experiments in my long-ago youth, I have never smoked cigarettes.

Cigars and cigarettes are quite different from one another. Cigars, at least the type of cigars you and I smoke, are made entirely from tobacco (almost always dark, air-cured tobacco), rolled by hand and are not inhaled. Cigarettes are cranked out on machines using a host of products, including flue-cured tobacco, and they are sucked deep into the lungs.

Cigarette smokers puff out of addiction. Most cigar smokers, myself included, do not. You don't see cigar smokers huddled in office doorways in the middle of winter, rushing to get a bit of smoking time during a break. I smoke cigars often, but I don't wake up with a burning desire to smoke, nor do I try to rush a last-minute cigar before a long flight, or fire one up the moment I get off a plane. I take breaks from cigar smoking, typically when I go on family vacations, as cigar smoking is a part of my work.

Cigars and cigarettes are quite different, but that difference tends to be lost by most in the medical community, as well as by lawmakers. Smoking, many erroneously believe, is smoking. Some see no difference between a Marlboro and a Macanudo, or a Parliament and a Padrón. But some do.

It brought a much-needed smile to my face when I came to the question in this doctor's office:

Q: Do you smoke cigarettes?
My short answer—no.

There were no questions about cigars.

Cigars are cigars. They are not cigarettes. And it made me happy to see at least one medical professional who clearly knows the difference.

Comments   10 comment(s)

drdeanparker@optonline.net September 19, 2013 3:52pm ET

I told my doc that I had a cigar or two each week during the warm weather and he said "no problem". I really don't think it's an issue unless you are smoking more than one/day.


Thomas Person — louisville, KY, USA,  —  September 19, 2013 5:20pm ET

I always answer that question no as it seem to always be leading to cigarettes and of course its fun to watch the doctor and his staff return later and try to figure out why some nicotine is in my system; but I do eventually tell them I smoke cigars.


Triva Garcev — IN,  —  September 19, 2013 6:56pm ET

I smoke pipes and cigars. Unless the question differentiates between cigars and cigarettes, I answer no. My doc already knows and says keep it in moderation.


Olafs Peteris Grigulis — Latvia,  —  September 20, 2013 3:39am ET

There is an interesting aspect to this in Latvia, because the words "smoke/smoking" in Latvian translate differently depending on the smoked item, e.g., you can "pīpēt" (technically smoke, but an English equivalent for it would be "to pipe") - but this is only applicable to pipes and cigars, while term "smēķēt" (to smoke) is used solely for cigarettes. All questionaires include only question "do you smoke" so technically (from linguistic perspective) a cigar or pipe smoker may not write "yes" :)


Float Dub September 20, 2013 7:19am ET

Say no all you want. Eventually we'll all be tested. If you've read about the upcoming health insurance exchanges, the law will allow insurance providers to charge up to 50% more in premiums for enrollees who use tobacco. I believe it is set state to state and not many states have published information yet but I heard rumor Connecticut is 50% and Kentucky is 40%, and many posted no additional premium at the start. Now IF all that is true (and I hope it is not) and with that much money on the line in some states one would assume they will be testing for nicotine and nicotine metabolites. Nicotine metabolites stay in the blood for about a month and in the hair for many months. Cigar smokers would test positive and even e-cig users would test positive for "tobacco use" just like cigarette users. It seems we will shift from an anti-tobacco society to an anti-nicotine society here soon. They won't get any "credit" for using a less harmful delivery system than cigarettes, and neither will we.


George C — Commack, NY, USA,  —  September 20, 2013 11:15pm ET

Great blog Dave.


Frank R. — Toronto, ON, CAN,  —  September 28, 2013 11:46pm ET

Well, I'll tell the truth, I'll have one or two cigars...after having three or four.

But when winter arrives up here, in the great white north, it's "No Smoking!" from Nov to Apr.


Michael Horton — Woodbridge, CT, usa,  —  September 29, 2013 10:16pm ET

Mike H------Frank, she wont let you smoke in the house either?


Frank R. — Toronto, ON, CAN,  —  October 1, 2013 5:54pm ET

Mike, my friend, I got two words for you: 'The garage'. Brrrrrr!


Ceasar Montoya — Denver, CO, 80229,  —  October 2, 2013 1:33pm ET

Under Colorado's health exchange, it asks "Do you use tobacco". According to them, tobacco use is defined as more than 4x/week in the past 6 months. Under this defenition I say most cigar smokers are not considered "tobacco users".



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