Cigars may have a reputation for being safer than cigarettes, but they may be just as harmful and addictive, researchers, including one of the Indian-origin, have warned.
In the study, published in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research, they found that the level of nicotine found in small cigar smoke is similar to or greater than cigarette smoke.
"There seems to be a perception in the public that cigars are not as harmful as cigarettes," said Reema Goel, from the Pennsylvania State University.
"However, our study shows that nicotine is pretty high in this class of cigars, and future regulation that affects cigarettes should also affect these cigars," Goel said.
According to researcher John Richie, the confusion surrounding the safety of cigars may stem from tobacco companies using clever tricks to get around current regulations.
"There are many misconceptions about cigars. The truth is, cigar smoke is inhaled and is just as harmful to the lungs," Richie said.
"Tobacco companies use loopholes in the way these products are taxed to allow these small cigars to be substantially cheaper than cigarettes," he said.
"They can also get around the regulation that says cigarettes can't be flavoured, to avoid making them appealing to children. These small cigars come in all kinds of flavours," he said.
The researchers compared the nicotine delivery in eight common brands of small cigars with two types of cigarettes commonly used in research.
Nicotine was measured by first collecting the smoke from each cigar with a smoking machine in the laboratory, which "smoked" the product using two different methods to account for the different ways people smoke.
Using the International Organisation of Standardisation method (ISO), the machine took two-second puffs every 60 seconds, with no filter vents blocked.
With the Canada Intense (CI) method, the machine also took two-second puffs, but they were only 30 seconds apart, and the vents were blocked with tape. Nicotine was then extracted and analysed from both groups.
The researchers found that when the ISO method was used, the mean average nicotine delivered by the small cigars sampled was 1.24 milligrams per cigar, compared to 0.87 in cigarettes.
Using the CI method, the mean average of nicotine delivered by the small cigars was 3.49 milligrams per cigar, compared to 2.13 in cigarettes.