Cigars 101

Inhaling cigars: right, wrong, good, or bad?

Inhaling cigars do you or don’t you?

People inhale cigarettes, so why not cigars? When it comes to inhaling cigars, there’s no specific rule, and the fact is, a number of cigar smokers do inhale as well as retrohale. In the latter case, you puff on your cigar and blow the smoke out your nose. In some cases, retrohaling results in a very peppery, nose-bending, eye-opening experience. On the other hand, it can help you discover flavors that you may not taste by simply puffing and expelling the smoke. As for inhaling cigar smoke, that’s another story.

Inhaling Cigars
I don’t know when it became official that you’re not supposed to inhale cigars. There’s certainly no law preventing you from doing so. It’s most likely one of those things that arose from common sense.

The reason cigarettes are easy to inhale is that the chemical additives in cigarettes lower the temperature of the smoke, allowing you to inhale without too much discomfort. Premium handmade cigars are an all natural tobacco product and generally a lot bigger than your average ciggy. Consequently, even in mild cigars, the smoke tends to be hotter, thicker, and if inhaled quickly, can possibly damage your lungs. For the new cigar smoker, inhaling can provoke a coughing fit of Richter scale proportions.

Moreover, cigarette smokers who have either switched to cigars or smoke both have a natural tendency to inhale. A fellow I met many years ago would, in the course of a day, smoke a pack of Marlboro Red and inhale several full-bodied cigars. It just didn’t bother him. He must’ve had lungs of steel, an incredibly high tolerance to nicotine, or had no fear of ever getting lung cancer. One of the other interesting facts about tobacco is that cigarette smoke tends to absorb better in the lungs than the mouth because it is more acidic, whereas cigar and pipe smoke absorbs better through the membranes in the mouth because it is more alkaline.

Traditionally speaking, inhaling is not recommended or necessary for enjoying premium cigars. If you think inhaling a cigar will provide the nicotine you crave, tobacco facts show that cigars, particularly full-bodied cigars which have more ligero tobacco, will supply plenty of it without inhaling. Other facts about tobacco show that the nicotine content of well-fermented and aged cigar tobacco is much lower on average than cigarettes. The longer the tobaccos age, the more nicotine is dissipated, which is another reason cigar smoke is better absorbed by the palate.

Retrohaling* is the process of expelling smoke so that it passes through the nasal cavity and past the olfactory receptors on its way out of your body. To call it “exhaling” or “blowing” smoke out through the nose is misleading because cigarette smokers also exhale smoke through the nose.

Though the hard-core inhalers reading this post may disagree, if you want to fully enjoy a good cigar, gently pull the smoke into your mouth, let your palate pick-up the nuances of flavor, and leisurely blow the smoke out of your mouth and/or nose (see retrohaling above). If you need an extra shot of nicotine try retrohaling more often.

Let’s not forget that one of the precepts of smoking cigars is to relax and de-stress as you savor the flavors and aromas of your cigar. So, try to resist inhaling. Better yet, don’t inhale at all. You may find that you have a better appreciation for your cigars, and will enjoy them more as well.

Gary Korb

Gary Korb

Executive Editor

Gary Korb has been writing and editing content for since its debut in 2008. An avid cigar smoker for over 30 years, during the past 12 years he has worked on the marketing side of the premium cigar business as a Sr. Copywriter, blogger, and cigar reviewer. A graduate of the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, prior to his career in the cigar business, Gary worked in the music and video industry as a marketer and a publicist.

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