FDA scientists just completed a systematic review of cigar smoking. They found that cancer risks are statistically zero for smoking one or two cigars per day. But, like a master illusionist, the FDA hid the truth under the table and only partially revealed their own sleight of hand.
For this review, FDA scientists analyzed data from 22 studies on cigar smoking and health outcomes. The scientists observed a clear dose-response effect. I frequently write about this principle. We often see it as it applies to drugs (and poisons), which the FDA should be protecting us from, instead of regulating cigars. Basically, a dose-response effect means the level of exposure relates to the level of risk.
When it comes to this study, it means the more cigars a person smoked daily, above a certain threshold, the higher the cancer risk. But smoking just one or two cigars per day had minimal health risks. However, the scientists hid this important finding amidst political posturing.
In fact, just to cover its bases, the FDA required the researchers to add this statement to their report: “[the study is] not a formal dissemination of FDA policy and does not represent FDA policy or position.” And this political posturing was the first thing readers saw when looking at the article — not the real facts about the minimal risks of smoking just one or two cigars per day.
Regardless of the new science from their very own scientists, the FDA recently took the official position that “cigar smoking carries many of the same health risks of cigarette smoking.”
They are actually half-right, but without realizing it.
Missing the forest for the trees
The FDA bases its whole political stance on evidence that heavy cigar smoking raises a person’s cancer risk. And yes, that is true. Of course, smoking 12 cigars a day will increase your risk of cancer, as in the tragic case of Gen. U.S Grant. But most people who enjoy good, whole leaf tobacco cigars only have one per day. Two at the most.
And light-to-moderate smoking of only one or two cigars per day, in fact, does carry the same risk as smoking a half-pack or less of cigarettes per day — namely NO risk at all for most people. Plus, research links light-to-moderate smoking of cigars or cigarettes with a healthier body weight.
Of course, cigar smoking is not like cigarette smoking as a behavior or habit. For one, you do NOT inhale cigar smoke, which clearly factors into the scientific findings. Second, it takes a long time to smoke a cigar. And nobody has the time to “chain-smoke” them.
Having a cigar is a time of relaxation and stress reduction. When the Native Americans spoke about smoking the “peace pipe,” the “peace” referred to the feeling they felt by smoking a pipe. (It did not refer to passing around of a pipe when signing treaties that weren’t worth the paper they were written on.)
As a side note, many people simply seem to have a cultural or personal bias against cigar smoke. They viscerally dislike the practice and its practitioners. That’s fine. It is (or was) a free country. But I find it ironic that often many of these same cigar critics celebrate smoking marijuana. Indeed, most people put cigarettes and cigars in the same vilified category, and marijuana gets a free pass, while its effects on both physical and especially mental health can be far worse.
But cigars and cigarettes are also very different products from each other. Cigars are made from natural whole-leaf tobacco and don’t have the chemical additives of cigarette tobacco. (And again, even with chemical additives, cigarettes don’t pose the deadly risks they’ve been accused of, when kept to less than a half-a-pack a day.)
No matter the science, the FDA’s politically correct and unscientific assumptions have spawned an entire new bureaucracy — the Center for Tobacco Products at FDA. They spend taxpayer money conducting frivolous research but then ignoring their own results, in order to justify their own existence.
The FDA can’t even keep deadly and dangerous prescription drugs off the market. (Admittedly it’s difficult when the former FDA head allegedly conspired, according to a federal racketeering charge, to dump toxic drugs on the public and conceal the scientific facts.)
They also stumble around interfering with public access to dietary supplements.
Now, they are taking on cigars.
There is an old saying, “where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”
At the FDA, there is “smoke and mirrors” when it comes to the science. And unless we “fire” thousands of bureaucrats who make their livings harassing honest, taxpaying citizens, the scientific truth will never come out from under those bureaucratic conference tables.
“Systematic review of cigar smoking and all cause and smoking related mortality,” BMC Public Health (www.bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com) 3/5/2015