For the past 15 consecutive years, Crimson Tide fans inside Bryant-Denny and Neyland Stadiums have smoked victory cigars after Alabama beats Tennessee just to rub it in. Outside of the stadiums, thousands of fans light up cigars all over the world if they could not be there in person.

While the 15 year streak is very impressive, fans have likely had to save a few dollars for the cigars and put their lungs through more than they expected.

Most fans don't actually inhale while smoking the cigars, but some do. Furthermore, in a stadium with 100,000 fans all packed in, those fans are bound to receive secondhand smoke in their lungs as well. After one and a half decades of doing this, does one cigar a year show any long-term health risks? asked Dr. Jenna Boyd Carpenter, a pulmonologist and intensive care doctor in Guntersville.


Any long term health risks?

"That topic is one of debate," she said. "You do get these questions about, 'What if I am only an occasional cigar or cigarette smoker?' That falls into a little bit of a gray zone. When we look at the data from the CDC, there is not much research or data out there about rare or occasional cigar smokers...about this occasional use, long-term effects or health consequences from that."

Dr. Carpenter also adds that one large cigar could contain almost as much nicotine as an entire pack of cigarettes.

"People might say, 'Don't be a downer on my tradition!' A lot of people look at that and say this is something that's been going on for years, not readily wanting to give that tradition up," she said. "Nicotine is addictive. Even occasional cigar use could potentially put you at risk for developing a nicotine addiction."

The CDC lists health risks with cigar smoking, including:

  • Regularly smoking cigars is associated with risks for cancers of the lung, esophagus, larynx, and oral cavity
  • 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
  • Increases the risk for lung diseases like emphysema and chronic bronchitis

Can you be addicted after only one?

"It's like anything else with addictive properties," Dr. Carpenter said. "You have to be cautious of anything with a drug in it, such as nicotine."

She also added, "Just one time a year, that does not qualify as an addiction."


Typically, people do not inhale it deeply in their lungs. Cigar smoke usually stays more in the mouth.

Regardless of who wins this Saturday at Neyland Stadium, there will be risks of secondhand inhalation. Even fans who don't want to smoke a cigar, including children, will end up breathing it in, especially if Tennessee pulls an upset.

'Just be aware'

Dr. Carpenter emphasizes that she hasn't seen enough data to confirm long-term risks of once a year cigars, but she warns of other dangers to be considered.

"The main thing I want people to think about is the long-term effect from secondhand exposure and the effects of long-term smoking, to just be aware. Know that nicotine is addictive," she says.

"Secondhand effects are not as well understood or realized by people, and they don't think that's as big of a deal. And it can affect you later in life if you were exposed to it growing up as a child."

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