Can that cigar you are smoking spread coronavirus? This is a tricky question that has a lot of context and nuance to it. In this article, we will cover the connection between cigar smoke and whether or not cigar smoke can carry it so you can have a better understanding of the risks.
In general, health experts say that cigar smoke and other kinds of smoke can transport coronavirus. Despite what many people think, COVID-19 is not truly airborne but is spread by clinging to particulate matter in the air. Droplets of water vapor expelled from a person’s lungs when smoking could potentially carry the virus.
However, there is still no scientific consensus over how far the microparticles can spread. It is known that coronavirus can attach to particles in regular air and spread up to 5 times more than they would just from being blown about by the air. That is the main reason that people are wearing facemasks—to prevent the virus from being spread by air.
In general, cigar smokers are not wearing facemasks when smoking. They also expel air from their lungs more forcefully than they would otherwise, meaning that the particles travel further than they would from normal breathing.
The WHO and other medical agencies are still gathering data about smoking and coronavirus, so you should keep yourself up to date on their latest information.
Secondhand Smoke and Coronavirus
One major reason there is still no consensus among medical experts about the exact risks of cigar smoke spreading COVID-19 is because the virus is still relatively new and there is a lack of data. However, scientists have figured out a few key details about secondhand smoke and COVID-19.
It is unlikely that the smoke itself can carry coronavirus. However, when you expel smoke from your lungs, you are also expelling large quantities of water vapor and moisture. The coronavirus viral particles can hitch a ride on the molecules and be spread through the air for much further distances than they would in clear air. Currently, scientists are not sure how far secondhand smoke can propel the virus, but it is at least 4 to 5 times further than plain air.
Medical experts have stated that in terms of how far coronavirus droplets can be spread, smoking and vaping is about the same as singing or shouting. The pursed lips and sudden exhalation of smoke can propel water droplets much further than they would be normally. Even smelling secondhand smoke can put you at risk because you are smelling air that was just in another person’s lungs.
There is also the fact that secondhand smoke lingers in the air and can settle on nearby furniture and fixtures. Scientists have discovered that the SARS-CoV-2 can live on plastic and metal surfaces saturated with aerosols for up to 3 to 4 days. So even if there is no active cloud of smoke in the area, particles resting on surfaces can still carry the coronavirus.
These risks may be even more pronounced with e-cigarettes and vapes. E-cigarette vapor contains many more water droplets than non-electronic cigarettes and e-cigs and vapes can produce large volumes of smoke.
One last major risk is that cigar smoking is normally a social activity. Cigar dens typically have enclosed rooms with minimal ventilation and multiple people in close proximity. For example, some cigar bars and clubs can seat up to 125 people all in relatively close proximity. Scientists have determined that COVID-19 is more likely to be spread indoors. The combination of being near others and the increased expulsion rate of water droplets from smoking can make cigar smoke a viable vector for coronavirus transmission.
Does Smoking Cigars Increase Your Risk of Getting Coronavirus?
Aside from the possibility of spreading COVID-19 from secondhand cigar smoke, there is evidence suggesting that smokers, including cigar smokers, are more likely to contract the virus. A recent study from Stanford University found that young adults who smoke or vape are up to 7 times more likely to be diagnosed with the disease.
The reason why is that smoking damages epithelial tissue in the lungs, which gives the virus more inroads of infection. Damaged lung tissue impairs lung function and makes it harder for the immune system to fight off respiratory infections. Smokers are also at a greater risk of developing severe symptoms of the disease, intensive care admissions, and death. This is also true for other respiratory viruses such as the flu.
There is also the fact that cigar smoking is also a social activity so smokers may be more likely to be around others when smoking. Coupled with the fact that smokers normally do not wear masks when smoking, there is a greater chance of getting the virus if you are hanging around a bunch of people smoking cigars.
My Final Thoughts!
So what does science say? The science suggests that cigar smoke can facilitate the spread of COVID-19. While the smoke itself likely won’t carry any viral particles, water vapor expelled from the lungs can. Exhaling smoke forces more water vapor out of your lungs than normal and these water droplets are sp[read much further than with normal breathing. Cigar smoking is also a social activity and most smokers will not be wearing a mask. Lastly, there is the possibility that air expelled while smoking can settle onto surfaces where the virus can survive for up to a few days.
Smokers themselves also seem to be more at risk of catching coronavirus and developing symptoms. This is because smoking damages the lungs and makes it harder for the immune system to fight off respiratory infections.
However, just because secondhand smoke may be a vector for coronavirus transmission does not mean that you can’t enjoy a nice cigar during the pandemic. As long as you are socially distancing yourself from other people and making sure you are smoking outdoors in places with decent ventilation, you can enjoy a good cigar while on your deck.