How To Smoke A Cigar and Not Get Sick

It is not uncommon for people who are just learning how to smoke a cigar to feel sick during their first smoking session. Nothing to beat yourself with, even old-time aficionados do get sick sometimes from smoking very strong cigars they are not accustomed to.

What causes cigar smoking sickness?

cigar and coffee

Simply put, nicotine overdose. A stick of cigarette contains around 1 milligram of nicotine. A large cigar (a torpedo or a churchill for example) contains nicotine that's equal to 2 packs of cigarettes or even as much as 400 milligrams of nicotine.

Ok, here's the lowdown on nicotine. According to, a leading authority on the composition and molecular structure of chemicals, nicotine is a naturally-occuring substance found in the tobacco plant. It is a "potent" nerve toxin and is actually a common ingredient in many insecticides!

Ingested in small doses, nicotine is a stimulant that affects both our central nervous system and peripheral nervous system. Depending on how much and how often you smoke, nicotine can both relax and invigorate a smoker. This "biphasic" effect of nicotine is not uncommon, according to Ann Meeker-O'Connell, an expert at How Stuff Works. This is also what makes the substance highly addictive.

Nicotine overdose (or poisoning) may cause "vomiting and nausea, headaches, difficulty in breathing, stomach pains and seizures, dizziness, lightheadedness, numbness in hands/feet/lips, headaches, double or fuzzy vision, dry mouth, hyperacidity, constipation, diarrhea, chest pains, shortness of breath, muscle twitching and spasms, dry mouth, and generalized weakness."

Ok, that's the worst of it so far. If you're still with me, and you still want to learn how to smoke a cigar, let's move along and see how you can avoid cigar smoking sickness or nicotine overdose.

James Yee, a leading expert on Cuban cigars at, offers the following tips for cigar smoking beginners not to get sick from their first cigar smoking experience:
  • Don't inhale – as we noted above, cigar smoke contain inordinate amounts of nicotine (compared) to cigarettes. When you inhale this smoke, the nicotine build-up in your blood stream becomes more rapid, and this will cause you to get sick. As I mentioned in our lead article "How To Smoke A Cigar," you can still enjoy the aroma and taste of your cigar without inhaling the smoke.

  • Avoid getting smoke in your eyes or nose - Smoke from your cigar can irritate your eyes, makes you teary-eyed and uncomfortable, and according to Yee, "quicken your smoking pace." It can cause your sinuses to "burn," can invite a bout of coughing, and worse, you could inhale the smoke through your nose. Yee advises to lean back if you can in a comfortable reclining chair, so that the smoke wafting up don't get to your eyes and nose.

  • Smoke on an empty/full stomach - Personally, I like smoking my cigar, after a meal or a light snack and many of the cigar smokers I know are also most comfortable with smoking with a full stomach. However, as Yee observed, some people just feel the opposite, and would enjoy their cigar best with an empty stomach. It's up to you. As you progress along in your cigar smoking, observe how your body reacts and find your comfort zone.

  • Smoke outdoors - In my article on cigar smoking etiquette, I observed that it's best to smoke outside, so as not to befoul your house with the tenacious smell of cigar smoke. Yee, explains, that smoking in tight, enclosed space with little or no ventilation is a cause of cigar smoking sickness.

  • Take your time - "Speed smoking" leads to cigar smoking sickness for many who are just learning how to smoke a cigar because this might cause you to inhale the smoke inadvertently. Smoke slowly, take your time. One puff a minute is just about right. Veteran aficionados can smoke 2-3 puffs per minute handily but I say a fine cigar is like your favorite gourmet dish, it's best enjoyed when you take it in slowly.

  • Be relaxed - Cigar smoking is most pleasurable when you're also relaxed while doing it. Try to find a cozy place in your house, in a patio or a deck, for instance, listen to your favorite soothing music. Smoking a cigar in a stressed uncomfortable environment like walking in 100 degree heat while playing golf, thirsty and half-dehydrated, just won't cut it. Smoking a "powerhouse" cigar that way would certainly kick your butt.

  • Have a glass of ice water with your cigar - While most aficionados would enjoy their cigar with a glass of their favorite drink (scotch, cognac, espresso, etc), Yee explains that a glass of ice water can in fact "do wonders" for the beginner and make the cigar smoking more enjoyable. "Taking one or two sips between draws/puffs will make a cigar feel less strong as the water refreshes your palate. As a result, you should be able to smoke an entire cigar without getting sick." He also cautions against alcoholic beverages as this might upset further a cigar-sensitive stomach.

I also find drinks like an ice cold 7up as having the same clearing effect as James' glass of ice water. Perhaps, the most effective measure of preventing sickness for someone just learning how to smoke a cigar is sugar-loading. Of course, this won't do if you have sugar-averse health conditions (like diabetes mellitus), but sugar is an antidote to nicotine overdose. In fact, if you try to oberve the old cigar smokers in the Caribbean, they carry cigar cubes with them and just pop one as soon as they start to feel a bit queasy from cigar smoking. You can ingest raw sugar when you feel like getting sick or, if you're not comfortable with the idea, just sweeten your espresso a notch higher or have a sugary drink while you smoke.

Over time, as you mature from a beginner learning how to smoke a cigar to a veteran cigar smoker, you'll also observe that you have progressively developed a high level of tolerance to nicotine. This is gradual, however, so beginners are better off following Yee's advice and starting with the mildest cigars until they are able to handle the stronger ones. Even among veteran cigar smokers, an ocassional unfamiliar cigar comes along that can bring out more than a light buzz.

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Photo: Cigar Poet

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FRed(tm) and My Rise to GodHood said...

Very true and a good article.

Essex, UK

Writing said...

Thank you for showing how to smoke a cigar. I have been smoking Cuban cigars for a along time now and I understand that it needs certain skills to fully enjoy the beauty of a cuban cigar.

Jeff said...

This blog gives complete description of how to smoke. This will help new smoker a lot on smoking . Not only new but also old smokers sometimes do not know the proper smoking pattern, for which sometimes they fall ill.From now onwardsI will take precaution while smoking.I prefer to Buy Cigarsonline.

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Anonymous said...

Try smoking a mild cigar and slowly work your way up to a cigar with a fuller flavor, or one that agrees with you.

Anonymous said...

I'm new to cigar smoking and I'm having a devil of a time finding out just how long to hold the smoke in my mouth. Is it a few seconds or longer. I know the obvious answer is "until you get a good taste of the smoke" but what is commonly acceptable?

ferd0 said...

Hi everyone as i write this i just smoke a romeo &jutiet cigar an hour ago with a dear friend of mine in Hong Kong and i felt extremely sick soon after. Im kind of a beginner and my favourite cigars are montecristos. This is the first time i ever felt this sick. Almost as if when you are drunk, a truly awful experience. There are many things that contributed to this. 1. Near empty stomach, 2 I'm having problems with my stomach due to local food (but nothing serious), 3 we had a beer (maybe affected me or nor) 4. I smoked too quickly (main reason?). Although my experience is/was bad, i still want to enjoy cigars but maybe next time in a different way. Our next cigar will be in Macao. My sincere thanks for this wonderful article and happy smoking :). Also local Chinese medicine for nausea i just took helped me feel better

ferd0 said...

Hi everyone, i just smoked a cigar with a dear friend of mine in Hong Kong and i just got super sick. Worse than drunken sickness. This is not my first time smoking btw. As this awesome article describes,) i smoked too quickly, uneasy, and with a weak stomach. Thanks for the article. Our next cigar will be in Macao and thanks to this article the experience will be much nicer.