A Victory on the Field Deserves to Be Remembered…with a Great Cigar

As we approach the college football rivalry game of Alabama v. Tennessee, it is timely to bring up the tradition of Alabama fans smoking premium cigars upon victory at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Whether you are an Alabama fan or not, it is nice to see a high-profile tradition surrounding the enjoyment of premium cigars. Who can forget the look of celebration on Joe Burrow’s after LSU won the National Championship?

The victory cigar is part of professional sports culture that goes back decades and a tradition celebrated by adult fans and athletes alike, across different sports, and transcends race, gender, culture, and creed much like the many cigar shops and lounges across the country. Most recently point guard Kelsey Plum and the Las Vegas Aces celebrated the WNBA championship while enjoying Arturo Fuente victory cigars. 

We could go on and on about examples of tradition, but this isn’t that type of discussion. In fact, this is a response to a story published by AL.com entitled, “Alabama fans smoking too many cigars? Doctor explains risk of one a year for 15 straight years”. The angle of the story rife with pontification and lacking scientific citations aims to conjure up fear of smoking a cigar as an Alabama fan on Saturday. Let’s examine the data on the health effects of smoking 0.00273 a day for 15 years for the sake of argument and a counterpoint to this timely, but shoddy article that conveys one perspective. 

In the article, Dr. Jenna Boyd Carpenter who starts off by answering her own question, are there any long-term health risks of smoking one cigar a year. That’s right … one cigar a year.  Dr. Carpenter says that according to the CDC, you are in a so-called ‘gray zone’ when it comes to health risks. Dr. Carpenter continues by saying that there is a lack of research into the topic of occasional or infrequent use. 

Let us address the claim that cigars could be bad for you by examining the research in the report Cigars: Patterns of Use, Marketing, and Health Effects by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, several conclusions on the health effects of smoking premium cigars were presented: 

There is insufficient evidence to determine if occasional or nondaily exclusive cigar use in general is associated with increased health risks.”[1] This conclusion highlights the fact that, even if there is a report, done by the ‘top minds’ of the anti-smoking movement, they will still not find conclusive results on the health effects of normal use of premium cigars. And yet, later in the article, Dr. Carpenter claims “The thing to be aware of with that is increased risk of oral and mouth cancers, particularly with cigar use (…) We all know about the lung cancer risk. That is not something that at this point is a secret. Tobacco users know this.”[2] It seems irresponsible to highlight something that has little basis in modern science and medicine. 

Keeping the conclusion of NASEM on the health risks in mind, Dr. Carpenter claims the following: 

  • “Regularly smoking cigars is associated with an increased risk for cancers of the lung, esophagus, larynx (voice box), and oral cavity (lip, tongue, mouth, throat).
  • Cigar smoking is linked to gum disease and tooth loss.
  • Heavy cigar smoking and inhaling cigar smoke deeply may increase risk for developing coronary heart disease.
  • Heavy cigar smoking increases the risk for lung diseases, such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis.”[3]

These claims are made only by ignoring the research and rely heavily on so-called “heavy cigar smoking” and conflation with other tobacco products. As a reminder, this article was attempting to draw conclusions for those who smoke one cigar a year. Looking into the patterns of use for cigars, NASEM said: “Among premium cigar users, 60.3 percent reported smoking on only 1 or 2 days in the 30 days preceding the survey (…) Moreover, frequent use (defined as 20 or more days in the past 30 days) was less common among premium (7.6 percent) (…) Daily use was rare (3.5 percent) among premium cigar users (…) [4] So, even profound cigar enthusiasts only smoke once or twice a month, and the so-called ‘heavy or regular’ users is a very small subset of the population. 

Dr. Carpenter goes on: “(…) one large cigar can contain about as much nicotine as an entire pack of cigarettes.”[5]“Nicotine is addictive. Even occasional cigar use could potentially put you at risk for developing a nicotine addiction.”[6]Not according to the research released just this year. Looking into the subject of addiction, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine addressed the concerns. As stated by NASEM in the study: “(…) it is biologically plausible that premium cigars can be addiction promoting, provided the user has sufficient extent of level exposure.”[7]

It is not an unreasonable conclusion to draw, from the data and conclusions presented in the NASEM study, that premium cigars have a very low assumed addiction level due to the frequency of use by the consumer, such as at a football game once a year. 

The last major claim made by Dr. Carpenter in the article is that: “Secondhand smoke exposure can be a big deal chronically over a long period of time.”[8] That seems to be a bold claim considering that NASEM said, “No data are published on secondhand smoke exposure to cigars overall or premium cigars in particular.”[9]

So as an overview of Dr. Carpenter’s claims, the facts and the evidence available do not show a link between cigar smoking and elevated long-term health risks. The patterns of use for cigar smokers is not consistent with addiction. And lastly, there is a lack of any conclusions on the health risks of second-hand premium cigar smoke. 

While the over generalizations in this story fall on Dr. Carpenter, the real discussion should be had with Ben Flanagan who authored the piece. We have to wonder if the same thoughts occur with the jogger who has to stop at the intersection and inhale exhaust while waiting, or the smelling of fumes while pushing the lawnmower, or the aroma of charcoal as it singes red meat? None of them are good for you, but in moderation, you’re fine. 

We wonder when a story will run about the presence of sugary drinks, fatty cheeseburgers, cholesterol infested fries and nachos readily available to attendees of the Alabama and Tennessee football fans.  

For more information on the research referenced, please visit: https://doi.org/10.17226/26421

For a full rundown of the results of the NASEM report done by PCA, please visit: https://premiumcigars.org/news/pcas-nasem-study-notes-noteworthy-the-good-the-bad-and-the-inconclusive/


National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Premium Cigars: Patterns of Use, Marketing, and Health Effects. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/26421.

Ben Flanagan. “Alabama Fans Smoking Too Many Cigars? Doctor Explains Risk of One a Year for 15 Straight Years.” al, October 12, 2022. https://www.al.com/life/2022/10/alabama-fans-smoking-too-many-cigars-doctor-explains-risk-of-smoking-one-cigar-a-year-for-15-straight-years.html.

[1] National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022., 16

[2]Ben Flanagan. “Alabama Fans Smoking Too Many Cigars? Doctor Explains Risk of One a Year for 15 Straight Years.”

[3]Ben Flanagan. “Alabama Fans Smoking Too Many Cigars?”

[4] National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022., 113-114

[5] Ben Flanagan. “Alabama Fans Smoking Too Many Cigars?”

[6] Ben Flanagan. “Alabama Fans Smoking Too Many Cigars?”

[7] National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine., 256

[8] Ben Flanagan. “Alabama Fans Smoking Too Many Cigars?”

[9] National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022., 117